Publications by Dr Janet Douglass

on lymphoedema management in the Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis

ouglass, J., Hailekiros, F., Martindale, S., Mableson, H., Seife, F., Bishaw, T., . . . Kelly-Hope, L. (2020). Addition of Lymphatic Stimulating Self-Care Practices Reduces Acute Attacks among People Affected by Moderate and Severe Lower-Limb Lymphedema in Ethiopia, a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 9(12), 4077.

Screenshot 2021-07-28 140101_edited.jpg

Lymphedema causes disability and exacerbates poverty in many countries. The management of lymphatic filariasis (LF) and podoconiosis-related lymphedema involves daily hygiene to reduce secondary infections, but self-massage and deep-breathing, which have proven beneficial in cancer-related lymphedema, are not included. A cluster randomized trial in northern Ethiopia investigated the effects of lymphatic stimulation for people affected by moderate to severe lymphedema. Participants were allocated to either standard (control n = 59) or enhanced (intervention n = 67) self-care groups. Primary outcomes were lymphedema stage, mid-calf circumference, and tissue compressibility. Secondary outcomes were the frequency and duration of acute attacks. After 24 weeks, fewer patients were assessed as severe (control −37.8%, intervention −42.4%, p = 0.15) and there were clinically relevant changes in mid-calf tissue compressibility but not circumference. There was a significant between-group difference in patients who reported any acute attacks over the study period (control n = 22 (38%), intervention n = 7 (12%), p = 0.014). Daily lymphedema self-care resulted in meaningful benefits for all participants with a greater reduction in acute episodes among people performing lymphatic stimulation. Observations of a change in lymphedema status support earlier findings in Bangladesh and extend the demonstrated benefits of enhanced self-care to people affected by podoconiosis.

Douglass, J., Mableson, H., Martindale, S., Jhara, S. T., Karim, M. J., Rahman, M. M., . . . Kelly-Hope, L. (2020). Effect of an Enhanced Self-Care Protocol on Lymphedema Status among People Affected by Moderate to Severe Lower-Limb Lymphedema in Bangladesh, a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 9(8), 2444. doi: 10.3390/jcm9082444

Screenshot 2021-07-28 135716_edited.jpg


Background: Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a major cause of lymphedema, affecting over 16 million people globally. A daily, hygiene-centered self-care protocol is recommended and effective in reducing acute attacks caused by secondary infections. It may also reverse lymphedema status in early stages, but less so as lymphedema advances. Lymphatic stimulating activities such as self-massage and deep-breathing have proven beneficial for cancer-related lymphedema, but have not been tested in LF-settings. Therefore, an enhanced self-care protocol was trialed among people affected by moderate to severe LF-related lymphedema in northern Bangladesh. Methods: Cluster randomization was used to allocate participants to either standard- or enhanced-self-care groups. Lymphedema status was determined by lymphedema stage, mid-calf circumference, and mid-calf tissue compressibility. Results: There were 71 patients in each group and at 24 weeks, both groups had experienced significant improvement in lymphedema status and reduction in acute attacks. There was a significant and clinically relevant between-group difference in mid-calf tissue compressibility with the biggest change observed on legs affected by severe lymphedema in the enhanced self-care group (∆ 21.5%, −0.68 (−0.91, −0.45), p < 0.001). Conclusion: This study offers the first evidence for including lymphatic stimulating activities in recommended self-care for people affected by moderate and severe LF-related lymphedema

An Enhanced Self-Care Protocol for People Affected by Moderate to Severe Lymphedema. 

Douglass, J., Mableson, H. E., Martindale, S., & Kelly-Hope, L. A. (2019). An Enhanced Self-Care Protocol for People Affected by Moderate to Severe Lymphedema. Methods and Protocols, 2(3), 77. doi:10.3390/mps2030077

Screenshot 2021-07-28 132740_edited.jpg

Lymphedema is a chronic skin disease that has many causes and leads to significant disfigurement and disability worldwide. Recommendations for lymphedema self-care vary by setting and the World Health Organization guidelines for people affected by lymphatic filariasis- and podoconiosis-related lymphedema are centered around a basic daily hygiene regimen. Research on cancer-related lymphedema in developed country settings suggests that deep-breathing exercises and self-massage can improve lymphedema status, but these exercises are not routinely taught to people affected by lymphedema in developing country settings. To determine if the activities proven in cancer-related lymphedema can improve outcomes for people affected by lymphatic filariasis- or podoconiosis-related lymphedema, an enhanced self-care protocol for lower limb lymphedema was developed and trialed in Nilphamari District in Bangladesh and Simada Woreda in Ethiopia. Enhanced self-care activities were chosen on the basis that they would not add financial burden to patients or their families and included recommendations to perform deep-breathing exercises and self-massage, drink clean water, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. The enhanced-care protocol was developed in collaboration with implementing partners in both countries and may be applicable in other populations affected by lower-limb lymphedema. Trial methods and results will be submitted for peer reviewed publication. Current recommendations for lymphedema self-care may be less effective for people with more advanced disease and new or cross-cutting methods are needed to improve outcomes for these populations.

Preventive chemotherapy reverses covert, lymphatic-associated tissue change in young people with lymphatic filariasis in Myanmar

Douglass, J., Dykes, L., Kelly-Hope, L., Gordon, S., Leggat, P., Aye, N. N.,  Graves, P. (2019). Preventive chemotherapy reverses covert, lymphatic-associated tissue change in young people with lymphatic filariasis in Myanmar. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 24(4), 463-476. doi:10.1111/tmi.13212

Screenshot 2021-07-28 142436_edited.jpg


Objectives. This longitudinal comparative study investigated the effect of preventive chemotherapy (PC) on covert tissue changes associated with lymphatic filariasis (LF) among young people living in an LF-endemic area in Myanmar. Methods. Tissue compressibility and extracellular free fluid in the lower limbs of people aged 10–21 years were measured using indurometry and bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS). Baseline measures were taken in October 2014, annual mass drug administration (MDA) of PC was delivered in December, and in March 2015 further PC was offered to LF-positive cases who had missed MDA. Follow-up measures were taken in February and June 2015. Results. A total of 50 antigen-positive cases and 46 antigen-negative controls were included. Self-reported PC consumption was 60.1% during 2014 MDA and 66.2% overall. At second follow-up, 24 of 34 cases and 27 of 43 controls had consumed PC. Significant and clinically relevant between-group differences at baseline were not found post-PC. Bayesian linear mixed models showed a significant change in indurometer scores at both calves for antigen-positive cases who consumed any PC (dominant calf: −0.30 [95% CI −0.52, −0.07], P < 0.05 and non-dominant calf: −0.35 [95% CI −0.58, −0.12], P < 0.01). Changes in antigen-negative participants or those not consuming PC were not significant. Conclusion. This study is the first attempt to use simple field-friendly tools to track fluid and tissue changes after treatment of asymptomatic people infected with LF. Results suggested that PC alone is sufficient to reverse covert lymphatic disturbance. Longer follow-up of larger cohorts is required to confirm these improvements and whether they persist over time. These findings should prompt increased efforts to overcome low PC coverage, which misses many infected young people, particularly males, who are unaware of their infection status, unmotivated to take PC and at risk of developing lymphoedema. Indurometry and BIS should be considered in assessment of lymphatic filariasis-related lymphedema.

Self-Care for Management of Secondary Lymphedema: A Systematic Review

Douglass, J., Graves, P., & Gordon, S. (2016). Self-Care for Management of Secondary Lymphedema: A Systematic Review. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 10(6), e0004740. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004740

Screenshot 2021-07-28 134933_edited.jpg

BACKGROUND: Lymphedema is a debilitating and disfiguring sequela of an overwhelmed lymphatic system. The most common causes of secondary lymphedema are lymphatic filariasis (LF), a vector-borne, parasitic disease endemic in 73 tropical countries, and treatment for cancer in developed countries. Lymphedema is incurable and requires life-long care so identification of effective lymphedema management is imperative to improve quality of life, reduce the burden on family resources and benefit the local community. This review was conducted to evaluate the evidence for effective lymphedema self-care strategies that might be applicable to management of all types of secondary lymphedema. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Searches were conducted in Medline, CINAHL and Scopus databases in March 2015. Included studies reported before and after measures of lymphedema status or frequency of acute infections. The methodological quality was assessed using the appropriate Critical Appraisal Skills Program checklist. Descriptive synthesis and meta-analysis were used to evaluate effectiveness of the outcomes reported. Twenty-eight papers were included; two RCTs were found to have strong methodology, and overall 57% of studies were rated as methodologically weak. Evidence from filariasis-related lymphedema (FR-LE) studies indicated that hygiene-centred self-care reduced the frequency and duration of acute episodes by 54%, and in cancer-related lymphedema (CR-LE) home-based exercise including deep breathing delivered significant volume reductions over standard self-care alone. Intensity of training in self-care practices and frequency of monitoring improved outcomes. Cultural and economic factors and access to health care services influenced the type of intervention delivered and how outcomes were measured. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: There is evidence to support the adoption of remedial exercises in the management of FR-LE and for a greater emphasis on self-treatment practices for people with CR-LE. Empowerment of people with lymphedema to care for themselves with access to supportive professional assistance has the capacity to optimise self-management practices and improve outcomes from limited health resources.