If you told me 2 years ago that I would be treating children with lymphedema, I would have laughed in your face.  When I graduated PT school, I vowed I would never treat children.  

Fast-forward to today & I’m now going to APTA-CSM 2023 to teach a pre-conference session with 3 other amazing lymphedema therapists.

Yep, you read that correctly.

APTA-CSM 2023 is going to see its first ever pediatric lymphedema pre-conference session!

Now before you tune us out, know this: this is not just a pediatric therapist issue.  In fact, OncoPTs may be some of the most well-prepared therapists to treat these patients, even if you’re not a CLT!

Betty Westbrook, Andrea Branas, & Amber Prailer sat down with me to discuss why this session is so necessary, what you need to know before you go, & why this has become one of our favorite patient populations to treat!

Why the heck do a pre-con at CSM about pediatric lymphedema?

This patient population is exploding, largely because we’re getting better at diagnosing these conditions.  However, these patients don’t have therapists in their area who are comfortable treating their lymphedema.  Very few therapists are willing to treat these patients, meaning these kids don’t get the necessary interventions.

By bringing this course to CSM, we have the opportunity to reach a lot more therapists & hopefully impact a lot more pediatric patients with lymphedema.

But will I actually encounter patients with pediatric lymphedema in my practice?

Short answer: yes.  Longer answer: these children are often diagnosed with lymphedema in major medical systems.  Frequently, they will return to their communities & need CDT.  However, many therapists won’t treat children with lymphedema.  This means you’re probably not seeing these patients because they don’t know where to find care for their lymphedema.  

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about treating pediatric lymphedema?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that complete decongestive therapy is contraindicated for children.  This stems from largely the lack of therapists comfortable treating children with lymphedema.

Another misconception is you can’t do MLD on children because they move all the time.  While it’s true they move A LOT, MLD can be performed as the child moves around or stands.

Misconception #3: Bandaging is too big for little kids.  Nope, bandaging is definitely appropriate & can be modified for children, even the tiny ones.

These patients will have to manage their lymphedema for the rest of their life.  They will need episodic CDT for the rest of their life.  TALK ABOUT JOB SECURITY!

What do I need to know/understand before coming to this pre-con?

If you’re open to learning, you’re going to learn a lot.