Care of Your Leg After
Lymph Node Removal
The lymph system helps to get rid of waste
products from your cells and helps your body fight
infection. Some lymph nodes, a part of the lymph
system, were removed during your surgery. Now
you will need to take special care of your leg to
help reduce the risk of swelling. Swelling, called
lymphedema, (pronounced lim-fe-dee′-ma) can
occur after surgery and can increase your chance
of infection. Early signs of lymphedema include a
feeling of heaviness in the limb, clothes that fit
tighter on one side or jewelry feeling too tight.
To Reduce the Risk of Swelling
• Physical activity and muscle contraction
increase the circulation in the lymph system:
Avoid standing or sitting in one place for a long time.
Walking, biking, swimming or dancing are good exercises that
improve your circulation.
Exercise 20 minutes a day, 4 times a week. Wear your compression
stocking if you have one.
Begin slowly with an exercise program and gradually increase your
Heat and humidity can increase swelling, so exercise when it is
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Learn more about your health care.
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Research Institute, The Ohio State University Medical Center - Upon
request all patient education handouts are available in other formats for
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• Obesity can increase the chance of swelling
Eat a diet high in fiber and low in fat.
Avoid salty foods to prevent a build up of fluid in your body.
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
To Reduce the Risk of Infection and Protect Your Skin
• Avoid anything that may cause swelling or infection in your leg or
Protect your leg from the sun by using sunscreen and covering your
Use insect repellant.
Wear shoes when outdoors.
Avoid tight stockings, shoes or elastic bands around your leg.
Avoid having your blood pressure taken in that leg.
Avoid having injections, an intravenous line or blood draws in that
If you get a cut, scratch, bite, burn or any break in your skin, wash
the area at once with soap and water. Cover it with a bandage, if
necessary. Check for normal healing at least once a day.
When you are in the hospital, staff may use special reminders to
avoid doing blood draws, IV’s or blood pressure in the leg that is at
risk for lymphedema. Having procedures done to the limb cannot
always be avoided. Some people buy medical “alert” bracelets or
necklaces to alert health care workers about the special precautions
for their leg. Pink Limb Precaution bracelets are available at The
James and can be placed around the affected ankle.
Call your doctor if:
• If your leg is seriously injured, or you see signs of infection. Signs of
Drainage that smells bad
If you develop swelling in your leg, ask your doctor about massage
treatments that can be done by a physical therapist.
A special clinic to help with lymphedema is located in The JamesCare
Comprehensive Breast Center, 1145 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, OH
43212. Physical Therapy is covered by most insurance plans. You will
need a doctor’s order for this service. You may make an appointment at the
Lymphedema Clinic by calling (614) 293-0043, or stop by after your
Talk to your doctor or others on your health care team if you have
questions. You may request more written information from the
Library for Health Information at (614) 293-3707 or email: health-