Riverside Medical Supply Lymphedema Therapy

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid that causes swelling in the extremities (arms and legs). This accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the interstitium is caused by an impairment of the lymph transport system. It is generally a lifelong condition, and is chronic and progressive.

What causes Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a mechanical breakdown of the lymphatic system which prevents the removal of lymph from a section of the body, causing it to swell and harden over time.

'Primary' Lymphedema is congenital or hereditary, and may manifest at birth 'Milroy's', or around puberty 'Praecox', or later in life 'Tarda'

Primary lymphedema is rare--most patients that we have treated here at Riverside have Secondary Lymphedema, which is acquired, and generally caused by some event that disrupts or traumatizes the lymphatic system:

  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency

  • Post-Mastectomy Lymph Node removal or dissection

  • Surgical Damage to the Lymph Nodes

  • Radiation Therapy

  • Injury/Trauma

  • Morbid Obesity

What Complications Arise from Lymphedema?

  • Cellulitis – increased susceptibility of infection

  • Non-healing wounds/ulcerations

  • Pain/discomfort

  • Fibrosis

  • Loss of function in limbs

How Does Compression Therapy Treat Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is most effectively treated by compression. Compression must be applied to the limbs to reduce the swelling. Medical-grade compression stockings or sleeves can apply the firm but gentle pressures that encourages the lymph fluid to move back into the bloodstream.

Pneumatic Compression Pumps are increasingly being recognized as the most effective long-term treatment for lymphedema. The compression pump system consists of an air pump and a garment that fits over the affected extremity.

Air pressure is applied to the garment, which in turn applies pressure to the extremity. A non-calibrated pump applies uniform pressure over the entire extremity. This system consist of a pump and garment with 4 or 8 Chambers that apply sequential pressure along the extremity, distally to proximally (from the hand or foot toward the torso).

Since lymphatic pressure is greater distally (in the hand or foot) than it is proximally (near the torso), the Gold Standard method of pneumatic compression therapy mimics the gradient pressures that are a normal part of a healthy lymphatic system. This is accomplished by means of a calibrated pump that applies gradient pressure to the segmented appliance, putting more pressure on the hand or foot and less pressure near the torso.

This type of system creates a gentle massaging action, moving the accumulated fluid from the affected extremities back into the body, where it can be naturally eliminated. Pressure and the subsequent effectiveness of the treatment can be gradually increased as the patient becomes more tolerant.

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Further Reading: Studies on the Use of Pneumatic Compression Pumps to Treat Lymphedema

1. Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Enhances Formation of Edema Tissue Fluid Channels in Lymphedema of Lower Limbs

By, Marzanna Zaleska, Waldemar L. Olszewski, Marta Cakala, Jaroslaw Cwikla and Tadeusz Budlewski., 2015

2. The Hydromechanics of Edema Fluid in Lymphedematous Lower Limb During Intermittent Pneumatic Compression

By, Mariusz Kaczmarek, PhD, Waldemar L. Olszewski, MD, PhD, Joanna Nowak, MSc, and Maranna Zaleska, MB., 2014

3. The Effectiveness of Intermittent Pneumatic Compression in Long-Term Therapy of Lymphedema of Lower Limb

By, Marzanna Zaleska, Waldemar L. Olszewski & Marek Durlik., 2014

4. MLD or Pneumatic Compression? The Evidence Behind the Actual Science

By, Cheri Hoskins, CLT, CCT, 2014

5. Pressures and Timing of Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices for Efficient Tissue Fluid and Lymph Flow in Limbs with Lymphedema

By, Marzanna Zaleska, Waldemar L. Olsewski, Pradeep Jain, Sashi Gogia, Arun Rekha, Samsita Mishra, and Marek Durlik., 2013

6. Peristaltic or Non-Peristaltic? The Evidence Behind the Actual Science

By, Cheri Hoskins, CLT, CCT, 2013

7. Effectiveness of Intermittent Pneumatic Compression for the Treatment of Venous Ulcers in Subjects with Secondary (Acquired) Lymphedema

By, Oscar M. Alvarez, PhD, Martin Wendelken, DPM, RN, Lee Markowitz, DPM, Rachelle Parker, MD & Christopher Comfort, MD., 2012

8. Pathways of Lymph and Tissue Fluid Flow During Intermittent Pneumatic Massage of Lower Limbs with Obstructive Lymphedema

By, W.L. Olszewski, J. Cwikla, M. Zaleska, A. Domaszewska-Szostek, T. Gradalski, S. Szopinska., 2011

9. Tissue Fluid Pressure and Flow during Pneumatic Compression in Lymphedema of Lower Limbs

By, Waldemar L. Olszewski, M.D., PhD, Pradeep Jain, M.D., Ph.D, Govinda Ambujam, M.D., Ph.D, Marzanna Zaleska, M.B., Marta Cakala, M.B., and Tomasz Gradalski, M.D. Ph.D., 2011

10. Tissue fluid pressure and flow in the subcutaneous tissue in lymphedema-hints for manual and pneumatic compression therapy

By, Waldemar L. Olszewski, Pradeep Jain, Govinda Ambujam, Marzanna Zaleska, Marta Cakala., 2010

11. The Flexitouch System vs. The Bio Compression 3008 System

By, Dr. Waldemar L. Olszewski, 2009

12. Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy for Patients with Breast Carcinoma-Associated Lymphedema

By, Andrzej Szuba, MD., PhD, Radha Achalu, MD, & Stanley G. Rockson, MD., 2002.

13. Combined Modality Treatment of Lymphedema using the ReidSleeve and the Bio Compression /Optiflow System

By, Renee Robinson, Lisa A. Massa, PT, CLT, Jennifer Maddox, PT, Nancy Guillett, LMT, CLT-LANA, Katherine Arsenault, MPT, CLT-LANA, Deborah Daugherty, MOT, CLT-LANA, Cheri Hoskins, Stephen Morgan, Ann Hafner and Tony Reid MD, PhD. 2005