Study Shows Compression Therapy is as Effective as Complex Decongestive Therapy in Early Lymphedema

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) October 24, 2013 – Compression therapy works as well as more expensive therapy in the treatment of early lymphedema, a recent study shows.

The study, titled “Randomized Trial of Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy for the Treatment of Lymphedema in Women With Breast Cancer,” was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on September 16, 2013. Researchers found no significant difference in efficacy between therapy consisting entirely of compression garments and complex decongestive therapy (CDT), consisting of manual lymphatic massage, daily bandaging, and skin care.

“Compression therapy has been around for many years,” said Greg Grambor, president of Vascular PRN, a national distributor of compression therapy equipment. “Recently, we’ve seen a number of studies showing it works as well as or better than more expensive treatments, and the medical community is responding. Simple compression garments were used in this study. Devices such as those offered by Vascular PRN use pneumatic mechanisms to give dynamic compression, enhancing blood flow and, many doctors believe, accelerating healing. And, like static compression garments, pneumatic compression is a cost-saving alternative to more complex therapies.

Researchers assigned test subjects – 103 women with early lymphedema – to either the CDT group or the compression garment group at random.

Some studies have shown an advantage for CDT over compression therapy, but the Canadian researchers who led the recent study were not satisfied with the quality of the available evidence and decided to conduct a randomized trial. Lead author Ian S. Dayes, MD, said he expected to confirm that CDT is more effective, but found that compression sleeves work just as well.

In an editorial accompanying the publication of the study, Sara Javid, MD, and Benjamin Anderson, MD, said that the results contribute to mounting evidence that CDT is not an appropriate first-line treatment for early lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a condition caused by a compromised lymphatic system, the symptoms of which include localized fluid retention and swelling of tissue. The lymphatic system is responsible for circulating tissue fluids throughout the body. Body parts exhibiting lymphedema are at risk of infection.

The study involved women with lymphedema in their arms and a minimum 10 percent difference in volume between their arms. The mean reduction in excess arm volume was slightly greater with CDT than with compression sleeves – 29.0 percent versus 22.6 percent – but the proportion of patients whose excess arm volume was reduced by 50 percent or more was the same for both therapies. Gains in quality of life and arm function were also similar between the two groups.

Dr. Anderson emphasized that the study does not address lymphedema that is advanced or that is resistant to first-line therapy.

“CDT and other therapies have their place, but given that compression therapy is relatively inexpensive, hassle-free, and effective, it makes a lot of sense to try it first,” added Grambor.