Bibliographic references regarding the lymphatic system are numerous and date back to the antiquity. Hippocrate is commonly quoted in the recognition of the lymph (white blood). “Lympha” means in Greek “Nymphe”, the goddess of clear waters. The Greek “N” frequently becomes a “L” in Latin. Therefore, the lymph is colourless: solely the mesenteric lymph is white during digestion.

In 1662, Gaspare Aselli (1581-1626) from Milan, re-discovers the essence of the lymphatic vessels while dissecting the mesenteric in dogs.
Jean Pecquet (1622-1674) from Montpellier, isolates the cisterna chyli also while dissecting dogs. Thomas Bartholin (1655-1738) performs an anatomical description of the lymphatic system and at the same time Olf Rudbeck (1630-1702) views the lymphatic system as a functional unit of the body. Winiwarther (1848-1917), Austrian surgeon, is probably the first one to establish the milestones of the manual manoeuvres in treating lymphatic pathologies.

It is of little interest to quote the earlier investigations of the lymphatic system. However, we owe to name Emil Vodder (1896-1986) from Copenhaguen, from whom originates a cosmetic technique of lymphatic drainage. In 1932, he initiates the concept of lymphatic drainage and at Paris, in 1936, he presents his approach during the Cosmetic Congress “Santé et Beauté”
(health and beauty).

Years later, he makes the attempt to break into the Art of Medicine and specifically in the field of physical therapy (Physiotherapy). Unfortunately, coming from a cosmetic background, being an autodidact, and without scientific research, E. Vodder struggles to rally a very suspicious audience to his concept of treatment.

In 1970, we had the opportunity to attend E. Vodder’s seminar. He, himself, and his spouse taught the seminar in Brussels. In the same period of time, we luckily met Sabine Godart, pediatric surgeon, co-founder of the ISL, who was looking for a location to establish a lymphology laboratory. We settled her in our own walls at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels), and together we endeavoured researches on the lymphatic system. Our first publications date back to this period (AL1.1 – AL1.10 ).
Sabine Godart presented in lymphology her aggregation thesis of the university education (1975) and little by little she moved to the sole practice of pediatric surgerynfant.

We have developed a research laboratory in lymphology and numerous Belgians and aliens researchers have shared our work: G. Delacave, P. Lievens, Y. Geysels, R. Meeuwsen, I. Caplan, E. Kerckhofs, P; Klein, L. Marcovecchio, J-L Ciucci, J.P. Belgrado, and O. Leduc as well as our technicians M. Van Humbeek and P. Demaret, Industrial Engineer. All these participants through their researches have largely promoted our research laboratory all around the world.

As full time professor at the Universités de Bruxelles, we have received the hospitality of and have had the opportunity to collaborate with the university hospital services (vascular surgery, oncology surgery, pediatry, nuclear medicine, …).
The veterinary speciality put the animals up for us since our first researches were animal based research.

The scopes of our researches were the following:

  • Animal based research (mice, rats, guinea pigs, pigs, lambs, …)
    • Location: Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Human cadavers based research
    • Location: Vrije Universiteit Brussel
    • Facultad de Medicina, Buenos-Aires
  • Healthy living human based research
    • Location: Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Human patient based research
    • Location: Hôpitaux universitaires de Bruxelles

Based on all these experiments we have established a treatment method of oedema.

Paris 1983, Congress of the Groupement Européen de Lymphologie (G.E.L.), we defined the sequences of our method. Based on lymphoscintigraphy experiments (in collaboration with Dr P. Bourgeois, Department of Nuclear Medicine, CHU Saint-Pierre, Bruxelles) we noticed that the so called “intake” manoeuvre, established on animal model, did create both an intra-lymphatic aspiration effect on the HAS Tc 99m and a diffusion pressure (OL1.1, OL1.3, OL1. 4). Through the same procedure, we also noticed that the so-called “resorption” manoeuvre had a tremendous effect on proteins intake by the lymphatic system (OL1.2, OL1.3, OL1.4). Later, we isolated substitute pathways in response to deficient lymphatic flow. The pathways were first identified through animal based experiments (mice, rats) and later on at least 300 human cadavers (AL1.32). Furthermore, the same pathways were eventually confirmed on patients through lymphoscintigraphy.
Our oedema method of treatment involves several therapeutic concepts (OL1.19 ). It is important to point out that oedema usually arises out of lymphatic and venous deficiencies. The tissue clogging is consequent to two components, one is liquid ratio the other is macro-molecular aggregate. The water is the major element of the liquid ratio and proteins are the most important aspect of the macro-molecular aggregate.
The double components have to be cleared simultaneously. Therefore, we propose a multi-faceted therapeutic approach in the treatment of oedema:

1. Manual lymphatic drainage
2. Mild pressotherapy
3. Multiple layers strapping
4. Garments