The standard of care in the treatment of lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which is performed by certified lymphedema therapists. Several schools in the United States offer specialized training and certification to physical therapists, occupational therapists, physicians, chiropractors, nurses, or massage therapists.
Therapists attending these courses receive a minimum of 135 hours of specific lymphedema training, which consists of one third class room lecture and two thirds of lab instruction in order to learn the necessary skills to effectively treat lymphedema.
Upon successful completion of this 135-hour course, which includes a written and hands-on examination, the participants graduate as certified lymphedema therapists (CLT).
Unfortunately, at the current time there are no mandatory training standards for lymphedema therapists, and some health care professionals claim to be lymphedema therapists, but have not actually attended and successfully graduated from one of these nationally recognized 135-hour programs.
The lack of standardized qualifications and training can seriously affect the outcome of lymphedema treatment. Recognizing the need for training standards, the Lymphology Association of North America (LANA) has stepped in to set up standards ensuring a minimum level of training, knowledge and experience. The National Lymphedema Network (NLN) endorses these standards.
LANA offers a voluntary national competency exam for certified lymphedema therapists who underwent a 135-hour recognized training program and have at least one year experience practicing lymphedema therapy. Therapists who successfully pass the national LANA exam may use the initials CLT-LANA behind their names.
Patients suffering from lymphedema should make sure to locate therapists who were adequately trained and certified and meet the standards outlined in the Position Statement of the National Lymphedema Network on the training of lymphedema therapists.
Resources to locate a certified lymphedema therapist:
The “Find a Therapist” tab on the menu bar on top of this page provides a list of lymphedema therapists who successfully graduated from one of the training schools in the United States and the rest of the world. Most schools will ask for your zipcode and email address to provide results online, or send names of nearby lymphedema therapists via email. The list also provides a link to the NLN resource Guide, which offers contact information on lymphedema clinics and therapists.
LANA also provides a list of international contacts for certified lymphedema therapists having passed the national exam – CLT-LANA locator.
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