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NYU docs use machine learning

Lymphedema causes unsightly swelling in the arms and legs. But researchers Mei Fu and Yao Wang have an idea for catching early symptoms sooner.

Researchers at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering have teamed up with those from the university’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing to develop a machine-learning algorithm that could help detect a lymphatic system disease before doctors are able to.

There is no cure for lymphedema, only physical exercises that can keep the symptoms in check.

Early detection of the disease would allow for physical therapy that could theoretically stop the disease’s progress enough to never allow it to develop.

“Machine learning will help us to develop an algorithm to determine a patient’s status or predict if they will have a measurable symptom later on,” explained Mei Fu, an associate professor at NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, by telephone last week. “Each time the patients enter the data, the algorithm will teach itself. Later on, machine learning will probably help us say which treatment is better for which kind of patients.”

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Clinician Resources: Pressure-Injuries, Ostomy, Lymphedema, Delirium

Here is a round-up of resources that you may find helpful in your practice.

New illustrations for pressure-injury staging

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) has released new illustrations of pressure injury stages. You can download the illustrations, which include normal Caucasian and non-Caucasian skin illustrations for reference.

There is no charge for the illustrations as long as they are being used for educational purposes, but donations to support the work of NPUAP are appreciated. (more…)

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Clinical Notes: Healing SCI Patients, antiseptics on mahout, diabetes

Electrical stimulation

Electrical stimulation and pressure ulcer healing in SCI patients

A systematic review of eight clinical trials of 517 patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and at least one pressure ulcer indicates that electrical stimulation increases the healing rate of pressure ulcers. Wounds with electrodes overlaying the wound bed seem to have faster pressureulcer healing than wounds with electrodes placed on intact skin around the ulcer. (more…)

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Lymphedema and lipedema: What every wound care clinician should know

Imagine you have a health condition that affects your life every day. Then imagine being told nothing can be done about it; you’ll just have to live with it. Or worse yet, your physician tells you the problem is “you’re just fat.”

Many people with lymphedema or lipedema have no idea their condition has a name or that many other people suffer from the same thing. Although lymphedema and lipedema can’t be cured, proper management and resources can help patients cope. This article improves your grasp of these conditions, describes how to recognize and manage them, and explains how to support your patients.

To understand lymphedema and lipedema, first you need to understand how the lymphatic system functions. It makes lymph, then moves it from tissues to the bloodstream. It also plays a major role in the immune system, aiding immune defense. In addition, it helps maintain normal fluid balance by promoting fluid movement from the interstitial tissues back to the venous circulation. (See Lymphatic system: Four major functions.)

If the lymphatic system is impaired from a primary (hereditary or congenital) condition or a secondary problem, lymphedema can result. In this chronic, potentially progressive, and incurable condition, protein-rich fluid accumulates in the interstitial tissues.

Lymphedema basics

Lymphedema occurs in four stages.

Stage 0. During this stage (also called the subclinical or latency stage), transport capacity of the lymphatic system decreases but remains sufficient to manage normal lymphatic loads. Signs and symptomsaren’t evident and can be measured only by sensitive instruments, such as bioimpedance spectroscopy and optoelectronic volumetry. Without such instruments to quantify volume changes, diagnosis may rest on subjective complaints.

In this stage, limited functional reserve of the lymphatic system leads to a fragile balance between subnormal transport capacity and lymphatic loads. Added stress on the lymphatic system (as from extended heat or cold exposure, injury, or infection) may cause progression to stage 1.

Providing appropriate patient information and education, especially after surgery, can dramatically reduce the risk that lymphedema will progress to a more serious stage.

Stage 1. Considered the spontaneously reversible stage, stage 1 is marked by softtissue pliability without fibrotic changes. Pitting can be induced easily. In early stage 1, limb swelling may recede over – night. With proper management, the patient can expect the extremity to decrease to a normal size compared to that of the uninvolved limb. Otherwise, lymphedema is likely to progress to stage 2.

Stage 1 lymphedema may be hard to distinguish from edemas from other causes. Clinicians must rely on the patient history and monitor for swelling resolution with conventional management, such as compression and elevation, or note if swelling persists despite these standard interventions.

Stage 2. Sometimes called the spontaneously irreversible stage, stage 2 is identified mainly from tissue proliferation and subsequent fibrosis (called lymphostatic fibrosis). The fluid component can be removed spontaneously, but removal of the increased tissue proliferation (initially irreversible) takes more time. Tissue proliferation stems from long-standing accumulation of protein-rich fluid; over time, the tissue hardens and pitting is hard to induce. In many cases, swelling volume increases, exacerbating the already compromised local immune defense.

Consequently, infections (particularly cellulitis) are common; these, in turn, increase the volume of the affected area. Proper treatment can reduce volume.

With proper care (complete decongestive therapy [CDT]), lymphedema can stabilize during stage 2. But patients with chronic or recurrent infections are likely to progress to stage 3.

Stage 3. Also called lymphostatic elephantiasis, this stage is marked by further fluid volume increases and progression of tissue changes. Lymphostatic fibrosis becomes firmer and other skin alterations may occur, including papillomas, cysts, fistulas, hyperkeratosis, fungal infections, and ulcers. Pitting may be present. Natural skinfolds deepen (especially those of the dorsum of the wrist or ankle) and, in many cases, cellulitis recurs.

If lymphedema management starts during this stage, reduction can still occur. Even in extreme cases, with proper care and patient adherence to treatment, lymphostatic elephantiasis can be reduced so the leg is a normal or near-normal size.

Assessment and diagnosis

A thorough physical examination is the gold standard for diagnosing lymphedema. A complete patient history, body-systems review, inspection, and palpation can help determine if edema is lymphedema.

Clinically, the only test with proven reliability and validity in diagnosing lymphedema is the Stemmer sign. Fibrotic changes associated with lymphedema can lead to thickened skin over the proximal phalanges of the toes or fingers. If you can’t tent or pinch the skin on the involved extremity, lymphedema is present (a positive Stemmer sign). However, a negative finding (soft, pliable tissue) doesn’t rule out  lymphedema because the condition may be in an early stage, before tissue proliferation and fibrosis have set in.

Management

Although incurable, lymphedema can be managed successfully through CDT. This approach involves proper identification of lymphedema, manual lymph drainage, skin and nail care, patient education, compression, and exercise.

CDT has two phases:

Phase I, the intensive phase, continues until the extremity has decongested or reached a plateau. The clinician provides treatments and educates the patient about all aspects of CDT to prepare him or her for phase II. Phase I can last several weeks to several months depending on lymphedema severity.

Phase II, the maintenance phase, begins once the extremity has decongested or plateaued. This phase still focuses on CDT, but now the patient, not the clinician, is responsible for all care. The goal is to reduce limb size while enabling the patient to become self-sufficient in managing lymphedema. Although CDT can bring significant improvements in limb size, skin quality, and function, patients must remember that phase II continues lifelong. Be sure to provide education about ongoing self-management strategies.

Lipedema: The disease they call “fat”

Lipedema is a painful disorder of fat deposition. Pathologic deposition of fatty tissue (usually below the waist) leads to progressive leg enlargement. Like lymphedema, lipedema is incurable but manageable. Unless managed properly, lipedema can reduce mobility, interfere with activities of daily living, and lead to secondary lymphedema. (See Lipedema stages.)

Lipedema commonly is misdiagnosed as lymphedema. However, lymphedema involves protein-rich fluid, whereas lip edema is a genetically mediated fat disorder. Because lipedema resists diet and exercise, it can lead to psychosocial complications. Lipedema occurs almost exclusively in women; typically, onset occurs between puberty and age 30. One unpublished epidemiologic study puts lip edema incidence in females at 11%. Some patients have a combination of lipedema and lymphedema. (See Viewing lipolymphedema.)

Assessment and diagnosis

As with lymphedema, lipedema diagnosis rests on clinical presentation. Lipedema characteristics include bilateral and symmetrical involvement, absence of pitting (because lipedema isn’t a fluid disorder), soft and pliable skin, and filling of the retromalleolar sulcus (called the fat pad sign.)

Key signs and symptoms include:

• feeling of heaviness in the legs (aching dysesthesia)

• easy bruising

• sensitivity to touch (called “painful fat syndrome”)

• orthostatic edema

• oatmeal-like changes to skin texture.

Nearly half of lipedema patients are overweight or obese, but many appear of normal weight from the waist up. Essentially, the upper and lower extremities don’t match. The lower extremities typically show fatty deposits extending from the iliac crest to the ankles, sparing the feet. (See Lipedema patterns.)

Management

Lipedema is best  managed through weight control, as additional weight gain through adipose tissue tends to deposit in the legs. For patients with concomitant lymphedema (lipolymphedema), modified CDT helps reduce and manage lymphatic compromise. To address excess fat deposition, newer “wet” liposuction techniques have proven beneficial. These techniques gently detach adipose cells from the tissue, helping to preserve connective tissue and lymphatic vessels.

Know what to look for

In both lymphedema and lipedema, early identification and proper diagnosis are key. (See Differentiating lymphedema and lipedema.) A thorough history and physical exam will likely lead to an accurate diagnosis, if clinicians know what to look for. Proper diagnosis and treatment can prevent expensive and ineffective interventions, which can negatively affect both the patient’s condition and psychological well being.

Heather Hettrick is an associate professor at Nova Southeastern University, Department of Physical Therapy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Selected references

Fat Disorders Research Society. Lipedema description.

Fife CE, Maus EA, Carter MJ. Lipedema: a frequently misdiagnosed and misunderstood fatty deposition syndrome. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2010;23(2):81-92

Herbst KL. Rare adipose disorders (RADS) masquerading as obesity. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2012;33(2):155-72.

Lipedema Project.

National Lymphedema Network. Position papers.

Schmeller W, Hueppe M, Meier-Vollrath I. Tumescent liposuction in lipoedema yields good long-term results. Br J Dermatol. 2012;166(1):161-8.

Zuther J. A closer look at lipedema and the effects on the lymphatic system. December 13, 2012. lymphedemablog.com/2012/12/13/a-closer-look-at-lipedema-and-the-effects-on-the-lymphatic-system/

Zuther J. Stages of lymphedema. October 3, 2012.

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Clinical Notes: biofilm, bariatric surgery, statins and more

Management of biofilm recommendations

The Journal of Wound Care has published Recommendations for the management of biofilm: a consensus document,” developed through the Italian Nursing Wound Healing Society.

The panel that created the document identified 10 interventions strongly recommended for clinical practice; however, panel members noted that, “there is a paucity of reliable, well-conducted clinical trials which have produced clear evidence related to the effects of biofilm presence.” (more…)

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Clinical Notes: Moldable Skin Barrier, hypoglycemia, diabetic food ulcers

Moldable skin barrier effective for elderly patients with ostomy

A study in Gastroenterology Nursing reports that compared to a conventional skin barrier, a moldable skin barrier significantly improves self-care satisfaction scores in elderly patients who have a stoma. The moldable skin barrier also caused less irritant dermatitis and the costs for leakage-proof cream were lower.

The application of a moldable skin barrier in the self-care of elderly ostomy patients” included 104 patients ages 65 to 79 who had a colostomy because of colorectal cancer.

Risk factors for severe hypoglycemia in older adults with diabetes identified

(more…)

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Clincal Notes: Analysis, Osteomyelitis, sickle cell, maggot

Value of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in wound care

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses—literature-based recommendations for evaluating strengths, weaknesses, and clinical value,” in Ostomy Wound Management, discusses evidence-based practice and how systematic reviews (SRs) and meta-analyses (MAs) can help improve management of wound care patients.

The authors of the article explain evidence-based practice and provide useful definitions for key terms. They then provide a list of eight questions to use when evaluating SRs and practical tips such as how to search for SR and MA studies. The article finishes with a list of eight inter­ventions supported by the most evidence: hydro­colloidal dressings, honey, biosynthetic dressings, iodine complexes, silver compounds, hydrogels, foam dressings, and negative pressure wound therapy. (more…)

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Clinical Notes: Modified Braden Risk Score, dialysis patients, plantar

CN_Risk

Modified Braden risk score proposed

A study in Ostomy Wound Management states the risk classification of patients using Braden Scale scores should comprise three (rather than five) levels: high risk, with a total score ≤11; moderate risk, with a total score of 12 to 16; and mild risk, with a total score ≥17.

The retrospective analysis of consecutively admitted patients at risk for pressure ulcer to an acute-care facility included 2,625 patients, with an age range from 1 month to 98 years; 3.1% developed a pressure ulcer. (more…)

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Clinical Notes

CN_Socks

Mild compression diabetic socks safe and effective for lower extremity edema

Diabetic socks with mild compression can reduce lower extremity edema in patients with diabetes without adversely affecting arterial circulation, according to a randomized control trial presented at the American Diabetes Association 75th Scientific Sessions Conference. (more…)

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A collaborative approach to wound care and lymphedema therapy: Part 2

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By Erin Fazzari, MPT, CLT, CWS, DWC

Have you seen legs like these in your practice?

Before-After

These legs show lymphedema and chronic wounds before treatment (left image) and after treatment (right image) with complex decongestive therapy (CDT)—the gold standard of lymphedema care. The patient benefited from multidisciplinary collaboration between wound care and lymphedema therapists. (more…)

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Providing evidence-based care for patients with lower-extremity cellulitis

By Darlene Hanson, PhD, RN; Diane Langemo, PhD, RN, FAAN; Patricia Thompson, MS, RN; Julie Anderson, PhD, RN; and Keith Swanson, MD

Cellulitis is an acute, painful, and potentially serious spreading bacterial skin infection that affects mainly the subcutaneous and dermal layers. Usually of an acute onset, it’s marked by redness, warmth, swelling, and tenderness. Borders of the affected skin are characteristically irregular. Although cellulitis may occur in many body areas, this article discusses the most common location—the lower limb. (more…)

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Clinical Notes: diabetes, LMW heparin, dressings, lymphedema

Factors affecting medication adherence in patients with diabetes identified

Factors associated with better adherence to antidiabetic medications taken by patients with diabetes include older age, male sex, higher education, higher income, use of mail-order vs. retail pharmacies, primary care vs. nonendocrinology specialist prescribers, higher daily total pill burden, and lower out-of-pocket costs. (more…)

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