SMASAC Short Life Working Group on Lymphoedema - Lymphoedema Care in Scotland, Achieving Equity and Quality

A Scottish Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee Report. Providing information on the nature and extent of Lymphoedema. Making recommendations for Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorate, Health Boards, NHS Education Scotland and Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Definition and Vision

What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a chronic, progressive condition resulting from failure of the lymphatic system to drain fluid from tissue spaces throughout the body and return it to the circulatory system. The two main types of lymphoedema are:

  • Primary lymphoedema, which may be present at birth and develop at puberty or in mid-life because of abnormal development of the lymphatic system.
  • Secondary lymphoedema, which arises when lymphatic failure results from damage to an otherwise normal lymphatic system.

The result is swelling that most commonly affects the limbs. However, lymphoedema can affect the chest, back, abdomen, buttocks, breast or genitalia in isolation or in combinations with limb oedema. It is important to note that swelling can occur for different reasons, including cancer, cancer treatment, trauma, vascular causes or congenital causes. Secondary problems of pain, infection, mobility limitations and reduced quality of life are common. (British Lymphology Society 2013)

What is the vision for lymphoedema care in Scotland?

This report supports the "Vision Statement" for lymphoedema care in Scotland developed by participants at the May 2013 "Spring Soiree" and endorsed by the Macmillan Lymphoedema Project for Scotland and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE):

"Our vision is one in which people are

Getting the DETAILS right!

Prompt Diagnosis, Education and Treatment with Access to Information on Lymphoedema and Supporting individuals' emotional and physical needs."


Email: Diane Dempster

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