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J Vasc Surg. 2009 May;49(5):1256-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2008.12.018.

Compression therapy in breast cancer-related lymphedema: A randomized, controlled comparative study of relation between volume and interface pressure changes.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Phlebology and Lymphology, Nij Smellinghe Hospital, Drachten, The Netherlands.



Short stretch bandages are very effective in the initial management of arm lymphedema. However, no studies to date have measured the pressure required to achieve specific amounts of volume reduction. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a difference between low and high-pressure bandaging in terms of therapeutically intended volume reduction of the compressed arm.


Experimental, randomized and comparative study with two study-groups consisting of high and low initial interface pressure bandages. Thirty-six hospitalized patients in Nij Smellinghe hospital suffering from moderate to severe unilateral breast cancer-related lymphedema not responsive to outpatient treatment were included. Bilateral arm volume was measured by inverse water volumetry before, after two hours and after 24 hours of bandaging. The amount of edema was calculated by subtracting the volume of the diseased arm from that of the contralateral side. Sub-bandage pressure was measured after bandage application and two hours later. Bandages were then re-applied and the pressure was measured again. Twenty-four hours later, the pressure measurement was repeated and bandages were removed for final volumetry. Patients were randomized into two groups: group A received low pressure bandages (20-30 mm Hg) and group B received high pressure bandages (44-58 mm Hg). The main outcome measures were reduction of arm volume and edema volume in the affected arm in both study groups. Secondary outcome parameters were changes in sub-bandage pressure and patient comfort.


Median arm volume reduction after two and 24 hours was 104.5 mL (95% confidence interval [CI], 51.2-184.2) (-2.5%) (P < .0001) and 217 mL (95% CI, 143.9-280.2) (-5.2%) (P < .01) for group A and 56.5 mL (95% CI, -2.7-123.1) (n.s.) and 167.5 mL (95% CI, 105.2-316.1) (-4.2%) (P < .01) for group B, respectively. There was no statistically significant difference between the volume changes in group A and group B. After 24 hours, edema decreased by median percentage of 9.2% in group A and 4.8% in group B (n.s.). Bandages in group A were better tolerated. The sub-bandage pressure drop in the first two hours was between 41% and 48% in both treatment groups at both measuring sites. After 24 hours, the pressure drop was between 55% and 63%. No proximal swelling above the bandage was observed.


Inelastic, multi-layer, multi-component compression bandages with lower pressure (20-30 mm Hg) are better tolerated and achieve the same amount of arm volume reduction as bandages applied with higher pressure (44-58 mm Hg) in the first 24 hours.

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