Lymphoedema Clinical Research Unit at Flinders Medical Centre

The Lymphoedema Clinical Research Unit has a holistic approach to assessing and managing lymphoedemas and other oedemas.

Please note: Treatment services are not currently provided within the clinic

However we run a range of Clinical Trials from time to time and you may be eligible to participate in them. See details below on how to contact us about them.

Secondary Lymphoedema

Secondary Lymphoedema is caused when delicate lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes are destroyed. Generally this is associated with:

  • surgery as part of treatment for cancers
  • radiotherapy associated with surgery
  • wide area and superficial burns
  • soft tissue injury

Symptoms include:

  • heaviness, tension and a feeling of fullness in the at risk limb or area in early stages
  • a tendency of the skin to leave an indent mark on application of pressure
  • an increased volume or circumference of the affected limb
  • increasing hardness of the limb as the lymphoedema progresses

Generally they appear within the first two to three years after the damage to the lymphatic system, but in some instances the welling that occurs after the surgery does not reduce and becomes chronic (lymphoedema). In other cases it may not occur for many years. The key revolves around recognising early signs.

Primary Lymphoedemas

Primary Lymphoedemas have a genetic basis and develop due to poor formation of the lymphatic system. They can be present at birth, develop at puberty or later in life. Recent information indicated they may underly many secondary lymphoedemas. Primary Lymphoedemas can appear at birth or any time afterwards, depending on the functional status of the lymphatic system. Symptoms are similar to those above for Secondary Lymphoedema.


Lipoedemas are due to problems with fat metabolism and related to subsequent inflammatory events. There is a genetic component to them. They are mainly confined to the lower limb but the trunk and whole body can be effected.

Symptoms can include:

  • skin tenderness
  • fat pads prominent at the thighs and medical knees
  • pain when any point or pressure is applied
  • spider veins

Those suffering may have areas symmetrical in nature (ie both legs affected similarly) and have relatively normal feet (except in later stages), unlike lymphoedemas which include swelling.

Lymphoedema assessment

Assessment techniques used by the unit include:

  • opto-electronic perometry to measure limb volumes and circumferences
  • indurometry and tonometry to measure the hardness or fibre of a limb
  • bio-impedance spectroscopy to measure whole and segmental limb fluids
  • di-electric constants to measure local skin and superficial tissue fluids
  • infra red photography to measure temperature - to detect infections/inflammation

Please note: Referrals are not currently being taken

Clinical trials

The Lymphoedema Clinical Research Unit regularly undertakes a range of clinical trials.
For details of current trials, or to put your name down for when one comes up with matches your condition, please phone (08) 8204 4711.


We do not undertake treatment in the clinic area (other than that associated with clinical trials). Anyone requiring treatment are recommended to qualified private practitioners specialising in lymphoedema management. Details of these can be found in the National Lymphoedema Practitioners Register. Please be aware that not all practitioners have registered so other lists or Yellow Pages may need to be consulted.

The Vital Essence

Understanding the lymphatic system in health and disease
The lymphatic system is important in maintaining body tissue and cellular health and with screening and education a great difference can be made in reducing the risk of developing lymphoedema and decreasing its severity.

An interactive CD-ROM (patient and health professional version) and DVD teaching package (site license required) has been designed to provide both patients and health professionals with information about the prevention, reduction and management of lymphoedema, including patient assessment tracking features.

Sales/order queries

Flinders Foundation  
Telephone: (08) 8204 5216 or Email:

Educational booklets

The Clinic produces a number of information booklets and pamphlets aimed at providing patients and health professionals with basic information relating to the recognition, treatment and management of a range of lymphatic and vascular conditions.

Booklets available in recognition, treatment and management of:

  • lymphoedema of the breast
  • lipoedema
  • a lymphoedema leg
  • a lymphoedema arm
  • a venous oedema leg
  • a primary lymphoedema limb

Cost is $15.00 each including GST and postage within Australia
To order a booklet or book, please see contact details below.

For more information

Australian Lymphology Association
National Lymphoedema Practitioners Register
International Lymphoedema Framework
National Lymphoedema Network

Lymphoedema Support group of South Australia 
(President Ms Monique Bareham)
Lipoedema Australia

Contact details

Telephone: (08) 8204 4711
Director - Professor Neil Piller
Telephone: (08) 8204 4711
Fax: (08) 8204 6160

Breast nurses
Telephone: (08) 8204 5754

Location: Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, Level 4, Room 4L152
Directions: Use Western Carpark
Enter Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, take lifts to Level 4.
Map: Flinders Medical Centre Precinct Map (PDF 587KB)

^ Back to top