What is Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT)?

What sounds a bit cumbersome at first is the most effective form of treatment currently available for lymphoedema. There are two phases of treatment for lymphoedema, the intensive treatment phase, known as Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT) and the long-term management phase, known as the ‘maintenance’ phase. There are four parts to both phases and all are essential for the best possible outcomes.

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Phase I – Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy / Intensive Phase

The prime objective of DLT is to reduce the limb size as much as possible, and in addition, to improve limb shape and skin condition. This intensive treatment may last for a period of 2-4 weeks and combines packages of treatments, ideally on a daily basis or every second day. Those with swelling that is considered to be mild or moderate and with a good limb shape, may not be required to have intensive treatment and would instead go straight to treatment phase II. 

Phase I consists of four cornerstones of care

  • Skin care
  • Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD)
  • Compression*
  • Exercise and movement

*Short-stretch bandages or wrap compression systems are often the compression therapy of choice

Phase II – Maintenance

The goal of the long-term management phase, or ‘maintenance phase’, is to maintain and improve (if possible) the swelling reduction and benefits achieved in phase I. It is essential that treatment is continued immediately, and continuously, upon completion of phase I as unfortunately, the swelling will come back if not managed correctly. 
Phase II also consists of four cornerstones of care

  • Skin care
  • Simple lymphatic drainage (SLD)
  • Compression**
  • Exercise and movement

**Graduated compression garments or wrap compression systems are usually the compression therapy of choice
Management of lymphoedema with DLT can offer independence, a feeling of empowerment and an improved quality of life.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Learn how Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is an integral part in the treatment of lymphoedema

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Exercise and Movement

Learn more about exercise and movement

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Skin Care

Learn why skin care is important in the care of your lymphoedema

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