Pneumatic Compression Pumps (PCPs), used to move lymph from the limbs back to the core for processing, have historically gotten a bad rap. However, the pumps today utilize improved technology that employs variable pressure settings specifically designed to use less pressure. They can even cover the trunk area, preventing genital and abdominal edema.
PCPs are not a replacement for Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) therapy, compression garments, or any other prescribed treatment. Instead, their purpose is to augment your home treatment. Patients who have used PCPs report that their legs feel lighter, their fibrosis is softer, and they have less pain in their legs after treatment. Your physician and/or therapist will work with you to design an individualized treatment plan to address your specific issues.
To obtain a PCP, you’ll need to get a prescription from your physician. Many insurance plans will pay for all or part of your PCP so be sure to call yours to find out if they’re covered by your plan and to obtain any necessary pre-approval.
Two of the most popular pumps that utilize the current, improved technology are Flexitouch and Lympha Press. Flexitouch has 32 chambers per limb and lower variable pressures. However, the velcro on the Flexitouch is a little harder to get on although it’s great for abnormal limb shapes. The Lympha Press has higher pressures, and fewer chambers per side (12), but more chambers than the old-school pumps. It’s easy to pull on and if it’s too big for the limb, just stuff a pillow into the area.
There are still quite a few old school pumps on the market. In order to ensure that the one you’ve chosen is safe, you want a PCP that’s programmable for light compression, uses variable pressure settings and is designed with multiple chambers. Do your homework and speak to various vendors regarding the technology that they use, and their success rates. Your physician or therapist may recommend one particular pump over the other for your individual case so be sure to get his or her recommendation before ordering.
Post-surgical patients should speak to their surgeon regarding the use of PCPs after surgery.