Edema pumps, technically known as compression pumps, counteract potentially dangerous swelling, primarily in your limbs. The systems may be used in the hospital, such as when you are bedridden after surgery, for example, and unable to get out of bed and walk, compromising your circulation. They can also be used to prevent swelling problems. Home edema pumps and lymphedema therapy products are often prescribed for the same reason.
A compression pump typically consists of the pump unit itself and “garments” or sleeves that are placed over your limbs as needed and connected to the compression pump base. The compression pump then provides intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) therapy—think of it as alternating, gentle squeezes of the area being treated—to assist blood and fluid flow, which might have been negatively affected by illness or injury. By applying compression at prescribed intervals to one or both arms or one or both legs, blood flow is increased and extra fluid is cleared. IPC mimics the natural pumping action of muscles that normally return fluid back into the vascular and lymphatic systems.
Your doctor may suggest IPC therapy for you at home to help with wound healing as well as decreased swelling and to improve circulation. It’s safe and easy to use and can usually be applied at a convenient time for you. Compression pumps are not at all uncomfortable; you will experience a slight feeling of tightening, though much less than the sensation of a blood pressure cuff, for instance, and the machines don’t make a lot of noise.
There are some precautions and caveats. While some compression pumps can aid in wound healing, they should not be used if a wound is infected. There are other conditions that prohibit their use including active DVT, severe congestive heart failure or arteriosclerosis, to name a few. Work with your doctor on the proper use of an edema pump and to know which type of therapy you’ll benefit from most. Systems have different delivery systems and work with either “single chamber” uniform compression arm or leg garments or “three chamber gradient sequential” arm or leg garments that provide a 10 percent reduction in pressure in each chamber distally to proximally.
Note that compression pumps and companion sleeves are usually sold separately—you’ll need to buy the recommended sleeves for the edema pump you select. Usually a wide variety of arm and leg garment sizes are available including half leg, full leg, half arm and full arm options as well as inserts that are added to garments to increase their circumference to accommodate larger limbs.
There are also products on the market that use IPC type action in a more therapeutic than medical system. For instance, the Revitaleg Portable Pneumatic Compression Leg Massager delivers intermittent pneumatic compression massage by inflating and deflating the cuff, which you wrap around your calf or foot. The squeezing of the muscles acts as a pump to help improve circulation in the lower leg and foot and reduce swelling caused by edema. It fits calf sizes up to 20" and has three massage modes and three pressures plus a patterned massage, depending on whether you want to relieve muscle aches and pain or boost circulation.