Doctor Calls for Equitable Coverage of Lymphedema

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Doctor Calls for Equitable Coverage of Lymphedema

Postby patoco » Sat May 29, 2010 11:10 am

Doctor Calls for Equitable Coverage of Lymphedema

Mayo Clinic doctor calls for equitable coverage of lymphedema

Dr. Andrea Cheville surprised treatment is not covered for some patients

By Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald May 18, 2010

All people diagnosed with a condition that causes severe swelling in the limbs -- and can lead to serious complications -- should receive publicly-funded treatment, which will ultimately place less of a financial burden on the health-care system, says a doctor with the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Andrea Cheville, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said she was surprised to hear treatment is not covered for some patients, depending on the condition's cause.

"I can't understand a failure to cover this; it is a disease, a medical condition that is acknowledged internationally," she said between seminars Monday at a symposium organized by the Alberta Lymphedema Association.

Lymphedema occurs because a patient's lymphatic system is not functioning properly, causing fluid to collect and the person's arms and legs to swell.

Complications can lead to recurrent infections, wounds that don't heal, loss of mobility and, in some cases, may even require limb amputation.

The condition is hereditary but can be caused by injury or infection. It also appears in some cancer patients because their lymph nodes are damaged during treatments and radiation therapy.

In Alberta, those with cancer-related lymphedema receive public funding for ongoing treatments; those whose lymphedema is caused by other reasons do not, said association spokeswoman Theresa Storm.

Alberta Health Services does provide a one-time assessment and consultation for non-cancer lymphedema patients in Calgary. However, the possibility of providing public funding for ongoing treatments is still being investigated, said Betty-Lynn Morrice, vice-president of strategy for health professions, strategy and practice.

"We are looking for further research that the same treatment is appropriate for people with lymphedema that is non-cancer related," she said.

Cheville and association members say covering treatments is more cost-effective than the province paying for hospital stays that result from untreated lymphedema.

"The irony is that health insurance will cover these complications, which are expensive to treat and which could have been prevented with foresight and less aggressive intervention early on," she said.

"In this case, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure." ... story.html
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