Complete Decongestive Therapy

Alyssa Settelmaier

Dr. Alyssa Settelmaier, PT, DPT, CLT (Certified Lymphedema Therapist)

What is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)?

Complete decongestive therapy is a treatment program that consists of 3 main parts:

  1. Manual Lymph Drainage
  2. Compression Therapy
  3. Exercise

How does a Treatment Program help?

  1. Manual lymph drainage is a gentle soft tissue technique designed to move fluid from an area that has increased swelling.
  2. Compression therapy usually consists of compression bandaging of the affected limb.
  3. Exercises will vary depending on the area affected.

Who would receive Complete Decongestive Therapy?

Many people could benefit from CDT. The main diagnoses usually include Lymphedema (primary and secondary), venous insufficiencies, and edema related to surgeries.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling of a body part as a result of the accumulation of a protein rich fluid. Lymphedema usually occurs in extremities (legs and arms), but can also occur in the face, abdomen, back and genitals.

What causes Lymphedema?

There are multiple causes for lymphedema. In this country, the number one causing factor of lymphedema is breast cancer related treatments. However, lymphedema could also be caused by other cancer and related treatments, surgeries, injuries, or anomalies present at birth (primary lymphedema).

If I have breast cancer or other cancer, why should I come to physical therapy prior to my surgeries?

Because breast and other cancers are the most common cause of lymphedema in this country, a certified lymphedema therapist needs to be a part of your treatment team. I usually have patients come before and after their breast cancer surgeries for an evaluation. The before evaluation is to get a baseline of your range of motion, strength, and girth measurements. When you come back after surgery, I retake the same measurements and address any changes or deficits. It is nice to have both evaluations because it is easier to recognize lymphedema sooner if we have your “normal” measurements; however, if you have already had your breast cancer surgery, you can still come and be treated.

What are reasons that I would not be appropriate to receive complete decongestive therapy?

We call these “red flags,” which include kidney failure, acute infection in the area to be treated, congestive heart failure, and history or current blood clots in the area to be treated. If you have any of these issues, we can discuss your case with your doctor and see if the benefit will outweigh the risk.

How can I access this kind of care? Will my insurance cover it?

Yes. Your insurance will cover this therapeutic technique. Please contact us for a free consultation to see if you could benefit from CDT.

Call our office at (716) 488-2322. We will connect with your primary care physician, provide them details about how to order CDT physical therapy services for you. All copay, coinsurance and deductible payments would apply for your insurance plan.