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Stanford Head and Neck Center

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Rehabilitation Program

Head and Neck Lymphedema

Our speech pathology team can provide intervention for lymphedema of the head and neck region.  Lymphedema is a type of swelling that occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged from surgery or radiation therapies.  Lymphedema can cause discomfort and reduced movement in the affected areas.  This may lead to cosmetic disfigurement but also functional problems with communication and swallowing as well as difficulties with breathing in some cases.  Head and neck lymphedema therapy includes two primary treatments, manual lymphatic drainage and compression.  Manual lymphatic drainage is a hands-on therapy that works to reestablish a new, more functional lymphatic drainage pattern.  Our speech pathology team can train patients and caregivers to complete this treatment at home in between therapy sessions.  Compression garments will be customized and fit according to patient need.  Early intervention for lymphedema tends to be most successful rather than intervening once fibrosis develops.

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is collection of lymphatic fluid in the soft tissues due to disruption of the normal lymphatic system related to removal of lymph nodes and/or damage to the lymphatic ducts.