A lymphedema or pneumatic compression pump is a device that treats chronic edema (swelling) and venous disease with the use of forced air into a sleeve or garment. The compression sleeve or garment is segmented into chambers that can be programed to provide specific amounts of compression or pressure against the body.  This pressure is measured in mmHG, or millimeters of mercury, and determined by a healthcare professional to treat a patient’s specific condition. Compression pumps are mostly used to treat legs and arms, but can be used to treat head, neck and even the torso. They can be used to treat single limbs or specific body parts, or multiple areas of the body simultaneously.

How often should a lymphedema pump be used?

Lymphedema pumps can be used in the acute phase of treatment as well as the maintenance phase as they treat chronic diseases that endure for the life of the patient. They are operated for specific treatment times of 30-120 minutes a few times per day as indicated by the treating clinician. It is recommended to supplement treatment with the use of compression therapy garments or bandaging to control the edema between treatment sessions.

Is a prescription required for a lymphedema pump?

Lymphedema pumps are used primarily in a homecare setting and occasionally used in a healthcare facility. A healthcare provider will prescribe a pump with a durable medical equipment (DME) provider who will verify insurance benefits, program the device to the prescription requirements, and arrange delivery and set-up. A prescription is required for Medicare or insurance coverage of lymphedema pumps. For off-label or recreational use, it is recommended to consult with your physician prior to use.

Are compression pumps effective?

Compression (pneumatic) pumps can be effective in the treatment of lymphedema, lipedema and chronic venous insufficiency when prescribed and operated properly. Results can vary based on the level of compression prescribed, the compliance of the patient and the quality of the pump itself.

FDA-approved medical compression (lymphedema) pumps provide graduated, sequential compression to move fluid distally (feet and hands) to proximally (torso of body) where lymph nodes and other organs can process for disposal. Pumps push air into the garment or sleeve filling chambers (can vary based on diagnosis and pump capabilities) stronger distally to proximally in various sequences based upon the necessary treatment required for the diagnosis.

How do lymphedema compression pumps work?

When treating venous health-related conditions or early-phase lymphedema, a basic sequential fill pattern is used.

When treating more advanced lymphedema or lipedema conditions, more elaborate programing is required to obtain the desired results:

Pretreatment programs are used to help prepare the lymph or body part for treatment.

Focused treatment modes are used to target additional treatment to problem areas

What are the benefits of a lymphedema pump?

Clinical benefits

  • Control edema or swelling
  • Increase circulation of venous and lymphatic system
  • Pain relief
  • Non-invasive

Patient benefits

  • Easy-to-use
  • Use at your convenience
  • Comfortable to use

What lymphedema compression pump is best for me?

A prescribing physician or healthcare professional will determine if a lymphedema pump is indicated for the diagnosis of the patient. Based upon the diagnosis and area of the body affected, a pump will be determined, and a treatment program will be selected to optimize outcomes.  Where the pump will be operated (either in a homecare setting, hospital or outpatient location) can factor into what device is prescribed.

Are lymphedema pumps covered by Medicare or insurance?

Since 1986, Medicare has made pneumatic lymphedema compression pumps a covered benefit in the treatment of lymphedema in a home setting when diagnosed by a physician and certain criteria has been met. This includes a minimum four-week use of conservative treatment of compression therapy, exercise and elevation. Proper documentation must be provided and submitted by an accredited Medicare DME provider who is responsible for patient delivery and set-up.

Learn more at Center for Medicare Services

More recently, Medicare has approved the use of pneumatic compression therapy in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency and ulceration with an edema component.  This requires a six-month conservative treatment plan that fails to produce results prior to authorization.

Learn more at Center for Medicare Services