Edema: Diagnosis and Management
Trayes KP, Studdiford JS, Pickle S, Tully AS; 2013
Synopsis: This article provides a detailed overview of edema (fluid accumulation in tissues between the body’s cells), including the history of assessment, various causes, diagnosis, treatment, and connection to lymphedema.
Abstract: Edema is an accumulation of fluid in the interstitial space that occurs as the capillary filtration exceeds the limits of lymphatic drainage, producing noticeable clinical signs and symptoms. The rapid development of generalized pitting edema associated with systemic disease requires timely diagnosis and management. The chronic accumulation of edema in one or both lower extremities often indicates venous insufficiency, especially in the presence of dependent edema and hemosiderin deposition. Skin care is crucial in preventing skin breakdown and venous ulcers. Eczematous (stasis) dermatitis can be managed with emollients and topical steroid creams.
Patients who have had deep venous thrombosis should wear compression stockings to prevent postthrombotic syndrome. If clinical suspicion for deep venous thrombosis remains high after negative results are noted on duplex ultrasonography, further investigation may include magnetic resonance venography to rule out pelvic or thigh proximal venous thrombosis or compression. Obstructive sleep apnea may cause bilateral leg edema even in the absence of pulmonary hypertension. Brawny, nonpitting skin with edema characterizes lymphedema, which can present in one or both lower extremities. Possible secondary causes of lymphedema include tumor, trauma, previous pelvic surgery, inguinal lymphadenectomy, and previous radiation therapy. Use of pneumatic compression devices or compression stockings may be helpful in these cases.