Hospital ‘world leader’ for lymphoedema patient care

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Staff at Mt Wilga Private Hospital in Sydney's Upper North Shore have been recognised for their outstanding work diagnosing and treating lymphatic disease.

The hospital’s Lymphoedema Clinic has been named a Conservative Care Centre of Excellence by the Lymphatic Education and Research Network, after a rigorous vetting process by some of the world’s best lymphatic medicine specialists.

It is the only service in Australia to be awarded this level of accreditation for this specialty.

Rehabilitation consultant Dr Helen Mackie, who helped create the clinic at Mt Wilga's Hornsby site in 1992, said the announcement recognised the hospital as a world leader in non-surgical treatments for lymphoedema.

“The hospital has worked with patients suffering the most severe and complex cases of lymphoedema for more than 30 years.

“Our treatment program is based on world’s best practice and provides a much-needed service to people across New South Wales and interstate suffering from lymphoedema,” she said.

Lymphoedema is a chronic and progressive condition that occurs when a build-up of lymph fluid in the body’s soft tissues causes swelling.

Around one person in every 6,000 will develop primary lymphoedema, while about 20 percent of patients treated for breast, melanoma, gynaecological or prostate cancers will develop secondary lymphoedema.

“Apart from severe and complex cases, our therapists also monitor people at risk of developing the condition, such as breast cancer patients,” Dr Mackie said.

Catherine Ireland, 73, has been a patient at the clinic for more than 10 years.

She said the treatment had given her back her independence and had also prevented her condition from getting worse.

“I developed lymphoedema in both arms after treatment for breast cancer and initially wore compression garments on both arms and hands.

“It made it almost impossible to do day-to-day tasks like cleaning the house and I stopped doing the things I love, like dancing,” she said.

“Working with the doctors and therapists at Mt Wilga, I no longer need to wear a garment on my left arm and hand, and my right arm is almost back to normal. I am hopeful that within the next six months I will only have to wear a compression gauntlet on my right hand and a compression garment on my right forearm.”

Mt Wilga Private Hospital CEO, Lorrie Mohsen, said the title was an honour for all doctors, therapists and staff associated with the Lymphoedema Clinic.

“Our staff have worked extremely hard to establish this service, which is one of a kind in Australia.

“It’s incredibly humbling to see all of our hard work rewarded with such a prestigious recognition,” she said.

The clinic treats around 200 lymphoedema patients annually, with 60 to 100 new patients referred to the clinic each year.

“The care and support provided by the staff at the clinic has been wonderful and even in between visits, if I have any concerns, I know that help is just a phone call away,” Mrs Ireland said.

Read more: Lymphoedema nurse's link to Florence Nightingale

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