Lymphedema news

New study shows benefits of compression pumps for lymphedema patients

Titled "The Cutaneous, Net Clinical, and Economic Benefits of Advanced Pneumatic Compression Devices in Patients with Lymphedema," this national study shared important research regarding the benefits of using an advanced pneumatic compression device on not only the treatment of lymphedema but the overall cost of care as well.

Compression pumps are a hot topic within the lymphedema community—I have changed my views on them a few times myself over the years!—but a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Dermatology yesterday may help settle some of the debate.

Titled “The Cutaneous, Net Clinical, and Economic Benefits of Advanced Pneumatic Compression Devices in Patients with Lymphedema,” this national study shared important research regarding the benefits of using an advanced pneumatic compression device (specifically the Flexitouch® System by Tactile Medical) on not only the treatment of lymphedema but the overall cost of care as well.

The authors of the study—which include leading experts in lymphedema and public health research from the University of Minnesota, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and Stanford University—analyzed 718 lymphedema patients from across the United States over a five-year period, and evaluated clinical events and costs for a 12-month period prior to and during a 12-month period of treatment. The participants included both cancer patients and non-cancer patients.

The study found that, through use of the Flexitouch at-home advanced pneumatic compression treatment, the rate of hospital and physical therapy visits were reduced, thus lowering cost of care. It also defined the following:

  • 79% reduction in rate of cellulitis episodes among cancer patients (75% for non-cancer patients)
  • 54% reduction in rate of inpatient hospitalizations for non-cancer patients
  • 37% reduction in total lymphedema-related costs per patient, excluding medical equipment, among cancer patients (36% for non-cancer patients)
  • 40% reduction in rate of outpatient hospital visits among non-cancer patients (29% for cancer patients)
  • 34% reduction in rate of physical therapy visits among non-cancer patients (30% for cancer patients)

In a press release about the study, Alan T. Hirsch, M.D., Director of the Vascular Medicine Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Chief Medical Officer of Tactile Medical, calls the study a “public health success”:

“Healthy lymphatic vessels are – very simply and without controversy – essential to good health. By studying a very large group of patients offered this modern treatment, delivered within the patient’s own home, and then carefully measuring the impact, we were extremely gratified that these skin infections were lowered by nearly 80% within one year. A device used at home can provide amazing reduction – for the patient and for the nation – of these skin infections, associated morbidity and cost. This is the very definition of a public health success.”

What is the impact of this research?

Consider this: the current standard of lymphedema care is combined decongestive therapy, a labor-intensive approach I’m sure most of you are familiar with. The components of this multimodal treatment are professionally administered manual lymph drainage, bandaging, decongestive exercise, skin care, and education in long-term lymphedema self-management.

What pneumatic compression devices provide is an additional and possibly more effective management option for patients, as these devices have been shown to be physiologically effective in improving lymphatic function and lymph flow, reducing the volume of edema. They’ve also demonstrated clinical benefits, as they improve patient-reported symptoms and quality of life. (source)

I can vouch for this myself, as I’ve been using a CircuFlow 5208 for about five or six months now with positive results. In fact, at my most recent check-up with my lymphedema doctor last month, the volume of my swelling had decreased since the previous visit due to my daily use of the compression pump in tandem with my decongestive therapy (compression garment, manual lymph drainage, etc.). It’s been an empowering experience: the pump has given me a greater sense of control over my lymphedema and its management, not to mention it makes my leg feel physically better than it had before.

The implications of this study are huge in terms of reducing the financial burden of lymphedema care, as well as improving the overall quality of life of those of us living with it. Because the treatment is done at home, pneumatic compression devices make lymphedema care more accessible to the patient, rather than having to go to the hospital or doctor’s all the time. It also ensures more consistent therapy, as the patient can perform it on a daily basis in their own home. Pumps can be expensive, but some insurance companies cover them (mine did); hopefully with data like this to support the effectiveness of pneumatic compression devices, more and more insurance companies will follow suit.

If you are interested in pneumatic compression devices, talk to your doctor or lymphedema therapist about your options. Everyone is different, so it is important to consult with a professional before trying a new treatment or therapy.

Study Data

Click to enlarge the images.

Interested in reading more?

Here are a few of the studies that were referenced in yesterday’s study published by JAMA Dermatology:

Header image of Flexitouch System from TactileMedical.com.

9 comments on “New study shows benefits of compression pumps for lymphedema patients

  1. Hi Alexa, what an excellently written article! You put a lot of work into it.

    And I am glad to know that your swelling decreased! That’s always a blessing.

    For myself, these pumps don’t seem to be an option, without any insurance and limited funds that I can spend on gadgets. Therefore I have to resort to other solutions. The combination that I have been using now for 2 months and not only the swelling has reduced already, but about a dozen of other symptoms have improved as well – and it cost me $25 or so, so far…

  2. Hi Alexa, what an excellently written article! You put a lot of work into it.

    And I am glad to know that your swelling decreased! That’s always a blessing.

    For myself, these pumps don’t seem to be an option, without any insurance and limited funds that I can spend on gadgets. Therefore I have to resort to other solutions. The combination that I have been using now for 2 months, did not only reduce the swelling already, but about a dozen of other symptoms have improved as well – and it cost me $25 or so, so far…

    • Kathy Vencil

      Andrea first of all I wouldn’t consider a pump a “gadget”. And yes cost and coverage can be an issue. I got mine out of network and took a few years to pay it off. I am very interested to know your low cost combination that has reduced swelling and would like a list of the dozen symtoms that have improved. I am all for methods that are proven so as to eliminate the need for overpriced DME.

      • Hi Kathy, I didn’t mean “gadget” as an offending word – maybe my English is not good enough and I don’t know how else to call an electrical device that has a particular function. If you have any other words that could be used here better, please do tell me, thanks.

        Here is everything about the super cheap steps that I am doing and the results: https://lymphedemafree.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/progress-after-2-months

        And what is DME?

      • Kathy Vencil

        Andrea thank you for the link that shows your methods of self help. And apparently the word gadget is different for us and I am sorry if I seemed offended. No harm no foul. Have you tried rebounding on a mini trampoline? It’s awesome! Moves the lymph fluid and is good for anyone not just us lymphies.

  3. Makasih atas infonya , Adria

  4. Pingback: “The most costly thing is doing nothing”: An interview with Dr. Alan T. Hirsch, M.D. | The Lymphie Life

  5. Pingback: URGENT: Medicare to significantly REDUCE treatment options for patients with lymphedema. Here’s how you can take action and fight back! | The Lymphie Life

  6. Great article! I am in my early 50’s and have lived my entire life with Lymphadema in my right leg. I have tried many times to get the pump for my leg. When I did a trial run with the pump I had great success with reduced swelling. I have my Lymphadema specialist try every year to get this covered for me with no success. Looks like I will need to go in front of the BCN board and fight for this on my own. I was also accepted by Dr. Stanley Rockson at Stanford for his clinical trial (pill form) but my father became ill and I had to turn it down. I pray that one day there is a cure for this disease.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: