Learn About Lymphatic Obstruction

What is the definition of Lymphatic Obstruction?

Lymphatic obstruction is a blockage of the lymph vessels that drain fluid from tissues throughout the body and allow immune cells to travel where they are needed. Lymphatic obstruction may cause lymphedema, which means swelling due to a blockage of the lymph passages.

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What are the alternative names for Lymphatic Obstruction?


What are the causes of Lymphatic Obstruction?

The most common reason for lymphatic obstruction is the removal or enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Other causes of lymphatic obstruction include:

  • Infections with parasites, such as filariasis
  • Injury
  • Radiation therapy
  • Skin infections, such as cellulitis (more common in obese people)
  • Surgery
  • Tumors

A common cause of lymphedema is removal of the breast (mastectomy) and underarm lymph tissue for breast cancer treatment. This causes lymphedema of the arm in some people, because the lymphatic drainage of the arm passes through the armpit (axilla).

Rare forms of lymphedema that are present from birth (congenital) may result from problems in the development of the lymphatic vessels.

What are the symptoms of Lymphatic Obstruction?

The main symptom is persistent (chronic) swelling, usually of the arm or leg.

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What are the current treatments for Lymphatic Obstruction?

Treatment for lymphedema includes:

  • Compression (usually with wrapping in bandages or stockings)
  • Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
  • Range of motion or resistance exercises

Manual lymph drainage is a light massage therapy technique. During massage, the skin is moved in certain directions based on the structure of the lymphatic system. This helps the lymph fluid drain through the proper channels.

Treatment also includes skin care to prevent injuries, infection, and skin breakdown. Light exercise and movement programs may also be prescribed. Wearing compression garments on the affected area or using a pneumatic compression pump may be helpful. Your provider and physical therapist will decide which compression methods are best.

Surgery is used in some cases, but it has limited success. The surgeon must have a lot of experience with this type of procedure. You will still need physical therapy after surgery to reduce lymphedema.

Types of surgery include:

  • Liposuction
  • Removal of abnormal lymphatic tissue
  • Transplant of normal lymphatic tissues to areas with abnormal lymphatic drainage (rarely done)

In rare cases, surgery to bypass abnormal lymph tissue using vein grafts is done. These procedures are most effective for early lymphedema and should be performed by an experienced surgeon.

Who are the top Lymphatic Obstruction Local Doctors?
Highly rated in
General Surgery
Plastic Surgery

Beth Israel Lahey Health

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

110 Francis St 
Boston, MA 2215

Dhruv Singhal is a General Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Singhal has been practicing medicine for over 19 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Lymphatic Obstruction. He is also highly rated in 11 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Lymphedema, Lymphatic Obstruction, Milroy Disease, and Primary Intestinal Lymphangiectasia. He is licensed to treat patients in Florida and Massachusetts. Dr. Singhal is currently accepting new patients.

Highly rated in

KU Leuven University Of Leuven

Leuven, VLG, BE 

Nele Devoogdt is in Leuven, Belgium. Devoogdt is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Lymphatic Obstruction. They are also highly rated in 7 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Lymphatic Obstruction, Lymphedema, Milroy Disease, and Mastectomy.

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Highly rated in

University Of Tokyo

Gifu-shi, JP 

Takumi Yamamoto is in Gifu-shi, Japan. Yamamoto is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Lymphatic Obstruction. He is also highly rated in 5 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Lymphatic Obstruction, Milroy Disease, Lymphedema, and Cellulitis.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Lymphatic Obstruction?

Lymphedema is a chronic disease that usually requires lifelong management. In some cases, lymphedema improves with time. Some swelling is usually permanent.

What are the possible complications of Lymphatic Obstruction?

In addition to swelling, the most common complications include:

  • Chronic wounds and ulcers
  • Skin breakdown
  • Cancer of the lymph tissue (rare)
When should I contact a medical professional for Lymphatic Obstruction?

See your provider if you have swelling of your arms, legs, or lymph nodes that does not respond to treatment or go away.

How do I prevent Lymphatic Obstruction?

Most surgeons now use a technique called sentinel lymph node sampling to reduce your risk for lymphedema after breast cancer surgery. However, this technique is not always appropriate or effective.

Lymphatic system
Yellow nail syndrome
What are the latest Lymphatic Obstruction Clinical Trials?
Physiological Study to Assess Mechanism of Action of MOBIDERM® in Lower-limb Lymphedema Patients
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SEntinel Lymph Node Endometrial Cancer Trial: A Prospective Multicenter International Single-Arm Observational Trial (SELECT)
What are the Latest Advances for Lymphatic Obstruction?
Treatment of Early-Stage Gynecological Cancer-Related Lower Limb Lymphedema by Lymphaticovenular Anastomosis-The Triple Incision Approach.
Rehabilitation and physical activity in gynecological oncological diseases.
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Manual lymphatic drainage with or without fluoroscopy guidance did not substantially improve the effect of decongestive lymphatic therapy in people with breast cancer-related lymphoedema (EFforT-BCRL trial): a multicentre randomised trial.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 17, 2021
Published By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Jackson KA, Feldman JL, Armer JM. Lymphedema risk reduction and management. In: Cheng MH, Chang DW, Patel KM, eds. Principles and Practice of Lymphedema Surgery. 2nd ed. St Louis, MA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 10.

Rockson SG. Lymphedema: evaluation and decision making. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 168.