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Lymphoedema in advanced cancer: does subcutaneous needle drainage improve quality of life?

Abstract

Purpose Lower limb lymphoedema in the palliative care population has limited treatment options. Subcutaneous needle drainage is an underused procedure that has previously been described in the literature for refractory lymphoedema. This study will quantify the potential improvements to quality of life and the adverse outcomes for this group of patients.

Methods This was a multicentre, non-randomised, observational trial using a validated questionnaire before and after the procedure. A tailored mobility measurement was also used. It extends a published pilot previously undertaken.

Results Thirty-two procedures were performed on 31 patients across three sites. The average drainage volume was 5.5 L. The domain of appearance (3.2 vs 2.8 vs 2.6) improved significantly and was sustained. All of the domains, except appearance, showed a significant improvement at 2 weeks. The cellulitis rate was 6%.

Conclusion Subcutaneous needle drainage appears to improve quality of life in those with lower limb lymphoedema facing a life-limiting illness.

  • lymphoedema
  • palliative care
  • subcutaneous needle drainage

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