Confidence of recurrent cellulitis self-diagnosis among people with lymphoedema: a qualitative interview study

Mitesh Patel, Siang Ing Lee, Nick J. Levell, Peter Smart, Joe Kai, Kim S. Thomas, Paul Leighton

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    BACKGROUND: Cellulitis can sometimes be challenging for healthcare professionals to diagnose, with no validated diagnostic criteria available. Supporting healthcare professionals to make a more accurate diagnosis of cellulitis in different groups, such as those with lymphoedema, is a cellulitis research priority. However, to the authors knowledge, no previous studies have looked at the involvement of non-healthcare professionals in the diagnostic process.  

    AIM: To explore the experience of people with lymphoedema and recurrent cellulitis in the diagnosis of lower-limb cellulitis.  

    DESIGN AND SETTING: Single, semi-structured, qualitative interviews carried out between 29 October and 19 December 2018.  

    METHOD: Adults with a suspected episode of cellulitis who had been diagnosed in the last 12 months or had a history of recurrent cellulitis were interviewed.  

    RESULTS: Three key themes emerged: the recurrent nature of cellulitis symptoms, participants' experience of getting a cellulitis diagnosis, and participants' suggestions of how cellulitis diagnosis might be improved. Generally, people with lymphoedema experienced similar clinical features during each of their own recurrent cellulitis episodes and were confident that they could make a self-diagnosis of cellulitis. This is also reflected in the participants' perceived trust from the healthcare professional in being able to make a self-diagnosis. A diagnostic checklist and educational resources were suggested as methods to improve diagnosis.  

    CONCLUSION: Selected people with lymphoedema who have recurrent cellulitis are confident in self-diagnosing their own recurrent cellulitis episodes. There may be a role for greater involvement of people with lymphoedema in their cellulitis diagnosis.  

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e130-e137
    Number of pages8
    JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
    Issue number691
    Early online date30 Jan 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


    • Adolescent
    • Adult
    • Aged
    • Cellulitis/diagnosis
    • Diagnostic Self Evaluation
    • Female
    • Humans
    • Lower Extremity
    • Lymphedema/complications
    • Male
    • Middle Aged
    • Qualitative Research
    • Recurrence
    • Self Concept
    • Symptom Assessment
    • Young Adult
    • Qualitative research
    • Lower limb
    • Cellulitis
    • Lymphoedema
    • Confidence
    • Diagnosis
    • Self-diagnosis

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