Effects of Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy on Improvements in Lymphedema, Quality of Life, and Fibrous Tissue in Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema

Objective: To evaluate the effects of extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) on improving lymphedema, quality of life, and fibrous tissue in patients with stage 2 lymphedema.

Methods: Breast cancer-related lymphedema patients referred to the rehabilitation center were recruited. We enrolled stage 2 lymphedema patients who had firmness of the skin at their forearm, a circumference difference of more than 2 cm between each arm, or a volume difference between upper extremities greater than 200 mL, confirmed by lymphoscintigraphy. The patients were randomly divided into the ESWT group and the control group. ESWT was performed for 3 weeks (two sessions per week); both groups received complex decongestive physical therapy. All patients were evaluated at baseline and at 3 weeks after treatment. The measurements performed included visual analog scale score, volume, circumference, QuickDASH (Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand) score, bioelectrical impedance, and skin thickness.

Results: The patients in both groups (n=15 in each group) completed the 3-week therapy experiment. No significant differences were observed in demographic characteristics between groups. After the 3-week treatment period, improvement was noted in the circumference difference below the elbow, volume, ratio of extracellular water to total body water, and skin thickness in the ESWT group. A significant difference was found in all the above-mentioned areas except in circumference below the elbow in the ESWT group.

Conclusion: ESWT reduced edema and skin fibrosis without significant complications. Therefore, ESWT can be used together with complex decongestive physical therapy for treating lymphedema.

Keywords: Breast cancer lymphedema; Electric impedance; Extracorporeal shockwave therapy; Fibrosis.

Bron: Pubmed – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32986941/