Posted by: patoconnor | September 17, 2009

Adverse effects of compression in treatment of limb lymphedema

I am not a particular fan of lymphedema patients using off the shelf compression garments as in my personal opinion they can often present tremendous complications if they do not fit properly, if there is rubbing of the materials on the skin, the bunching often accompanying a compression sleeve or garment and various other problems.

This is a good little article on the possible damages that can occur in using “improper” compression in the treatment of lymphedema.

An excellent reminder too how important it is for us to work with our therapist in designing the correct maintenance program and system for each of us individually, based on our particular situation.

Pat O’Conrnor
September 16, 2009

Adverse effects of compression in treatment of limb lymphedema


Limb lymphedema, whether primary or secondary, is a chronic disease. Compression is the cornerstone of therapy and includes multilayer low-stretch bandages and elastic garments. Compression is usually well-tolerated. The aim of our study was to identify all the different types of adverse effects of compression.

Materials and methods

Since January 2005, we have recorded all adverse events occurring in outpatients and inpatients consulting in a single lymphology department, spontaneously reported by patient during consultations or physical examinations, and noted the type of compression material used.


Adverse effects were secondary to poor choice of therapeutic material, excessive pressure or contact dermatitis. For the arms, an elastic garment stopping at the wrist can be responsible for lymphedema of the hand and fingers. Rubbing of sleeve seams may cause pain and even ulcers between the thumb and forefinger. Open-toed elastic stockings may exacerbate digital lymphedema, leading to the formation of oozing lymph vesicles. Hyperpressure may cause severe pain localized to the first and fifth toes, overlapping toes, interdigital corns and/or ingrown toenails. Silicone-banded soft-fit elastic garments may cause painful phlyctena, urticaria or eczematiform lesions. Elastic bandages may induce pain or purpuric lesions.


Compression can be responsible for adverse effects, sometimes severe, requiring treatment change or withdrawal. Further studies are needed to precisely determine their frequency to improve prescriptions and currently available products.

EM Consulte

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