Does lymphedema severity affect quality of life? Simple question. Challenging answers

Teresa S. Lee*, Carol M. Morris, Sharon A. Czerniec, Andrea J. Mangion

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Lymphedema can have a negative impact on the function and quality of life (QOL) of patients, but most studies have examined lymphedema as a binary variable, rather than a multidimensional disease that ranges in severity. This study explored the potential impact of lymphedema severity on function and overall QOL. Methods and Results: Of the 54 lymphedema patients recruited, 40 reported their most severe swelling to be in a limb. These participants underwent bioimpedance measurement (L-Dex®) and completed either the disabilities of the arm, shoulder, and hand (DASH) questionnaire or the lower extremity functional scale (LEFS). All participants completed the lymphedema quality of life questionnaire (LYMQOL) and were categorized for severity using International Society of Lymphology (ISL) stage. Mild (Stage 0-I), moderate (Stage IIa), and severe (Stage IIb-III) lymphedema accounted for 22%, 50%, and 28% of the participants, respectively. The median [inter-quartile range (IQR)] L-Dex score was 17.8 (6.6-52.7) for arm participants and 36.4 (15.9-93.5) for leg participants. Apart from a mild difference in LYMQOL ARM Appearance domain (p = 0.046), ISL staging did not have any relationship with DASH, LEFS, and LYMQOL domains, or overall QOL. Higher L-Dex was related to poorer function (DASH p = 0.015; LEFS p = 0.019), but was not related to overall QOL of limb lymphedema participants (p > 0.05). Conclusions: Lymphedema severity did not appear to impact QOL. ISL staging may not be used alone to describe lymphedema severity. Other methods such as bioimpedance, imaging, and self-report of symptoms are required to fully evaluate the impact of lymphedema severity on function and QOL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-91
Number of pages7
JournalLymphatic Research and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • bioimpedance
  • function
  • lymphedema
  • quality of life


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