Oncology Section EDGE Task Force on Urogenital Cancer Outcomes: Clinical Measures of Lymphedema—A Systematic Review

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Background:Valid and reliable tools to assess lymphedema are necessary to accurately evaluate status and to objectively document and measure the results of interventions. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each measure can inform the clinician's choice of the appropriate tool to be used in the clinic or research setting.Purpose:To identify reliable and valid measurement techniques that are sensitive to change for assessing edema volume or soft tissue change in the lower extremities or genital region of patients with lymphedema.Methods:A systematic review of the literature was conducted to assess the published psychometric properties and clinical feasibility of each method identified. Task Force members independently reviewed each measure using the Cancer EDGE Rating Form.Results:Both water displacement and circumferential measurement methods by tape measure were rated as Highly Recommended to quantify lower-extremity limb volume. Water displacement was determined to be the criterion standard by which all other assessments of volume are benchmarked. Both optoelectric volumetry and bioelectric impedance analysis were rated as Recommended, and ultrasound was rated Not Recommended.Conclusion:The Urogenital Cancer EDGE Task Force highly recommends water displacement and circumferential tape measurement for use as reliable methods for assessment and documentation of change of limb volume in this patient population. Early detection of subclinical lower-extremity lymphedema in this patient population remains challenging, as there is no “index” limb that can be proven to be uninvolved in a patient population with documented pelvic node dissection/irradiation. No articles were found to support valid and reliable genital lymphedema volume measurement.

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