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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Manual lymphatic drainage for lymphedema following breast cancer treatment

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, May 2015
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (97th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (90th percentile)

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45 X users
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Manual lymphatic drainage for lymphedema following breast cancer treatment
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, May 2015
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd003475.pub2
Pubmed ID

Jeanette Ezzo, Eric Manheimer, Margaret L McNeely, Doris M Howell, Robert Weiss, Karin I Johansson, Ting Bao, Linda Bily, Catherine M Tuppo, Anne F Williams, Didem Karadibak


More than one in five patients who undergo treatment for breast cancer will develop breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL). BCRL can occur as a result of breast cancer surgery and/or radiation therapy. BCRL can negatively impact comfort, function, and quality of life (QoL). Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), a type of hands-on therapy, is frequently used for BCRL and often as part of complex decongestive therapy (CDT). CDT is a fourfold conservative treatment which includes MLD, compression therapy (consisting of compression bandages, compression sleeves, or other types of compression garments), skin care, and lymph-reducing exercises (LREs). Phase 1 of CDT is to reduce swelling; Phase 2 is to maintain the reduced swelling. To assess the efficacy and safety of MLD in treating BCRL. We searched Medline, EMBASE, CENTRAL, WHO ICTRP (World Health Organization's International Clinical Trial Registry Platform), and Cochrane Breast Cancer Group's Specialised Register from root to 24 May 2013. No language restrictions were applied. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs of women with BCRL. The intervention was MLD. The primary outcomes were (1) volumetric changes, (2) adverse events. Secondary outcomes were (1) function, (2) subjective sensations, (3) QoL, (4) cost of care. We collected data on three volumetric outcomes. (1) LE (lymphedema) volume was defined as the amount of excess fluid left in the arm after treatment, calculated as volume in mL of affected arm post-treatment minus unaffected arm post-treatment. (2) Volume reduction was defined as the amount of fluid reduction in mL from before to after treatment calculated as the pretreatment LE volume of the affected arm minus the post-treatment LE volume of the affected arm. (3) Per cent reduction was defined as the proportion of fluid reduced relative to the baseline excess volume, calculated as volume reduction divided by baseline LE volume multiplied by 100. We entered trial data into Review Manger 5.2 (RevMan), pooled data using a fixed-effect model, and analyzed continuous data as mean differences (MDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). We also explored subgroups to determine whether mild BCRL compared to moderate or severe BCRL, and BCRL less than a year compared to more than a year was associated with a better response to MLD. Six trials were included. Based on similar designs, trials clustered in three categories.(1) MLD + standard physiotherapy versus standard physiotherapy (one trial) showed significant improvements in both groups from baseline but no significant between-groups differences for per cent reduction.(2) MLD + compression bandaging versus compression bandaging (two trials) showed significant per cent reductions of 30% to 38.6% for compression bandaging alone, and an additional 7.11% reduction for MLD (MD 7.11%, 95% CI 1.75% to 12.47%; two RCTs; 83 participants). Volume reduction was borderline significant (P = 0.06). LE volume was not significant. Subgroup analyses was significant showing that participants with mild-to-moderate BCRL were better responders to MLD than were moderate-to-severe participants.(3) MLD + compression therapy versus nonMLD treatment + compression therapy (three trials) were too varied to pool. One of the trials compared compression sleeve plus MLD to compression sleeve plus pneumatic pump. Volume reduction was statistically significant favoring MLD (MD 47.00 mL, 95% CI 15.25 mL to 78.75 mL; 1 RCT; 24 participants), per cent reduction was borderline significant (P=0.07), and LE volume was not significant. A second trial compared compression sleeve plus MLD to compression sleeve plus self-administered simple lymphatic drainage (SLD), and was significant for MLD for LE volume (MD -230.00 mL, 95% CI -450.84 mL to -9.16 mL; 1 RCT; 31 participants) but not for volume reduction or per cent reduction. A third trial of MLD + compression bandaging versus SLD + compression bandaging was not significant (P = 0.10) for per cent reduction, the only outcome measured (MD 11.80%, 95% CI -2.47% to 26.07%, 28 participants).MLD was well tolerated and safe in all trials.Two trials measured function as range of motion with conflicting results. One trial reported significant within-groups gains for both groups, but no between-groups differences. The other trial reported there were no significant within-groups gains and did not report between-groups results. One trial measured strength and reported no significant changes in either group.Two trials measured QoL, but results were not usable because one trial did not report any results, and the other trial did not report between-groups results.Four trials measured sensations such as pain and heaviness. Overall, the sensations were significantly reduced in both groups over baseline, but with no between-groups differences. No trials reported cost of care.Trials were small ranging from 24 to 45 participants. Most trials appeared to randomize participants adequately. However, in four trials the person measuring the swelling knew what treatment the participants were receiving, and this could have biased results. MLD is safe and may offer additional benefit to compression bandaging for swelling reduction. Compared to individuals with moderate-to-severe BCRL, those with mild-to-moderate BCRL may be the ones who benefit from adding MLD to an intensive course of treatment with compression bandaging. This finding, however, needs to be confirmed by randomized data.In trials where MLD and sleeve were compared with a nonMLD treatment and sleeve, volumetric outcomes were inconsistent within the same trial. Research is needed to identify the most clinically meaningful volumetric measurement, to incorporate newer technologies in LE assessment, and to assess other clinically relevant outcomes such as fibrotic tissue formation.Findings were contradictory for function (range of motion), and inconclusive for quality of life.For symptoms such as pain and heaviness, 60% to 80% of participants reported feeling better regardless of which treatment they received.One-year follow-up suggests that once swelling had been reduced, participants were likely to keep their swelling down if they continued to use a custom-made sleeve.

X Demographics

X Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 45 X users who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.
Mendeley readers

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 861 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Canada 3 <1%
Chile 1 <1%
France 1 <1%
United States 1 <1%
Unknown 855 99%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Bachelor 147 17%
Student > Master 118 14%
Student > Ph. D. Student 62 7%
Researcher 52 6%
Student > Doctoral Student 41 5%
Other 141 16%
Unknown 300 35%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 217 25%
Nursing and Health Professions 184 21%
Psychology 31 4%
Sports and Recreations 18 2%
Social Sciences 17 2%
Other 75 9%
Unknown 319 37%
Attention Score in Context

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 70. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 10 June 2024.
All research outputs
of 25,887,951 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 13,154 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 281,520 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 279 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 25,887,951 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 97th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 13,154 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 34.5. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 91% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 281,520 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 97% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 279 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 90% of its contemporaries.