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Chronic oedema: assessment, compression and monitoring

Jeanette Muldoon looks at what nurses need to know about this often distressing condition

Chronic oedema as a form of lymphoedema has been described as a swelling that persists for more than three months and does not resolve when the affected part is elevated.1

Main types of oedemas are primary, secondary to other conditions, lipoedema caused by fat deposition and gravitational or dependency oedema through restricted mobility and obesity (Fig.1). Prevalence is often difficult to record accurately due to causes and types of oedema, associated factors and demographics, although it is widely seen as a growing problem, particularly for patients with venous disease. A study of 971 patients in Derby, UK recorded a prevalence of 3.93 per 1,000 of whom 40% had a concurrent leg ulcer.2 Unresolved oedema or mismanagement pose significant financial costs to organisations and quality of life costs to sufferers.3

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