Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid (edema) within the skin. It can be caused by damage to lymph circulation from cancer treatments or trauma, or by hereditary conditions. Lymphedema most often affects the arms or legs, but can occur in other regions. This can become a chronic, progressive problem if untreated. Low level laser may be used by medical care providers as a part of a program of comprehensive therapy.
Low level laser therapy (LLLT) or “cold laser” has been used in clinics for over 40 years. A beam of infrared light is absorbed by body tissues, and causes beneficial physiological changes due to photochemical and photophysical processes. In 2006, the FDA approved the RIANCORP LTU 904 for treatment of post-mastectomy lymphedema. It is the only laser cleared for treating lymphedema. Click here for a detailed video presentation.
Low Level Laser: Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia conducted the only randomised double blind trial for any lymphedema treatment in the world. They studied the RIANCORP LTU904 device without any adjunctive therapy. Results were impressive: 30% of patients had a significant reduction in limb volume that was maintained (or improved) for 3 months. The study was published in the journal “Cancer” in 2003. Click here for additional information.
FAQS – LTU-904
The LTU-904 laser is only lymphedema treatment that has been trialed in a randomised double blind study. It was found that 52% of participants experienced clinically significant decrease in extra-celluar fluid levels vs 19% of placebo.
The LTU-904 laser is a Class 1 laser and it will not burn, or raise the skin temperature.
Laser has been used since the 1960’s and there have been no reported negative effects. We do not recommend the use of the laser over active cancer sites.
It must be prescribed by your physician for you to purchase a laser for personal use. Any licensed medical care provider is allowed to apply low level laser treatment. Most states prohibit massage therapists from using modalities, however.
The LTU-904 is a Class 1 laser and there are no eye safety requirements.
The laser is used on the scar tissue, any hard tissue areas and in the lymph node areas (armpit or groin). Treatment time is usually 15 mins.
A study has not been done for primary lymphedema patients, but we have several individual patients who have reported benefits from the LTU-904 for primary lymphedema.
The laser affects the individual cells and re-energises them to be more active. This new energy helps to break up fibrous tissue.
Purchase of a low level laser device is considered experimental by most insurance plans. Currently, it is not a covered modality for treatment. A provider may give a treatment (such as manual lymphatic drainage), and use low level laser as an adjunct to the billable procedure.
Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) Articles
Ann Angel talks about LLLT