Assistant has specialized training
Kelly Howard, Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant, joined the St. Mary’s Hospital staff last year. She has specialized training in treating lymphedema, the condition that can develop when a person’s lymph system is impaired. Swelling can occur in the arms, legs, abdomen, back and chest region.
She received her certification in the Leduc method of lymphatic treatment from Ann Marie Vaillant-Newman, PT, MA in San Diego in 2003. Her PTA was earned from the Professional Skills Institute in Santa Barbara, California in 1996.
“Secondary lymphedema can be brought on by surgical intervention such as the removal of lymph nodes, liposuction or vein stripping, whereas primary lymphedema is congenital, people can be born with it,” said Howard. “Lymph vessels carry a fluid to the lymph nodes. Those nodes then filter the waste materials and foreign products. If a person’s lymph vessels or nodes become damaged or are missing, the lymph fluid cannot move freely through the system. Lymphatic protein fluids can build up and cause swelling in the affected region.” Leg swelling can also be an issue for people who have congestive heart failure, varicose veins or other venous conditions.
According to Howard, treatment can consist of manual lymphatic drainage, vasocompression pump, compression bandages and/or compression garments. “Manual drainage is a pain free technique that ‘jump starts’ the lymph system to move the protein fluids to the lymph nodes then out of the body. This massage type technique is one of the things I learned during my certification process,” said Howard. “The vasocompression pump helps move the fluid and maintain what the manual drainage accomplished.”
Compression wraps and compression garments are worn after the treatment to help with the fluid movement and maintain the decreased swelling or edema. Earlier is better than later when it comes to lymphedema treatment and prevention is the key. There are things a person can and should do to help prevent lymphedema, said Howard.
In addition to assisting with the therapy needs of orthopedic and other types of patients Howard also sees lymphedema patients at the SMHC PT clinics in Cottonwood, Kamiah and in Grangeville. Patients must be referred through their physician or specialist for insurance purposes.
“If someone has a question or concern I recommend that they first talk with their health care provider. I work with the physicians, specialists and mid level providers in the area and am happy to use my skills to help patients achieve and maintain the best health possible,” said Howard.
Prior to joining the SMHC PT staff Howard worked at outpatient clinics, long term care facilities, home health and acute care hospitals in California and Nevada.