Using Lymphedema Pumps

Lymphedema is a condition that causes localized fluid retention and resultant swelling of tissue as a result of a compromised lymphatic system. The role of a healthy lymphatic system is to transport the interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct and into the blood stream thus recirculating it back to the tissues. If this system becomes compromised then the tissue can swell and the patient will risk infection at the site of the problem.

Sequential Gradient Pump Therapy

Sequential gradient pump therapy involves the use of a pneumatic sleeve in order to help force the movement of collecting lymph fluid. These are very similar to the sleeves used to test for blood pressure when you visit the doctor. Here the sleeves will fill with air and thus drain the nodes. This is often used in combination with other forms of compression such as bandages, similarly designed to help further reduce swelling and to encourage the flow of the lymphatic fluids. This can be used as a home treatment.

How to Wear the Lymphedema Sleeve

To put on the lymphedema sleeve you should first put on a cotton stockinette. This is designed to prevent the ‘boot’ from getting dirty and will help to keep your arm more comfortable inside. When you put it on it will be very lose, as will the sleeve at first. Push your limb in as far as it will go and then zip it all the way up. Now you are ready to turn on the pump – note that this will take around five minutes to fill up.

How to Use One

To use a lymphedema pump you need to fit the sleeve comfortably over your arm and then inflate it to the point where it reaches around 40-50mmHg. This should feel like a tight compression, but not restrictive to the point where it might cut off blood supply. Anything higher than 50mmHg is not recommended as this can cause damage to the limb.

When to use the pumps is the other question. Your doctor will be able to guide you on this, but as a general rule you will often be asked to use the pump twice a day for the first few months with about a six hour gap between sessions. Each session should last around an hour at a time, but it shouldn’t cause you too much harm if you accidentally go over this time. Hopefully you will find with time that you don’t need to use the pump as regularly.



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