The role of pneumatic compression in the treatment of postmastectomy lymphedema. A randomized phase III study

D. Dini, L. Del Mastro, A. Gozza, R. Lionetto, O. Garrone, G. Forno, G. Vidili, G. Bertelli, M. Venturini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pneumatic compression is a frequently prescribed physical therapy for patients affected by postmastectomy lymphedema but, despite its wide use, its efficacy has not been demonstrated in phase III studies. We performed a randomized study comparing pneumatic compression versus no treatment in patients with postmastectomy lymphedema. Patients and methods: Patients with monolateral postmastectomy lymphedema were randomized to receive two cycles of intermittent pneumatic compression (PC group), i.e., five two-hour sessions per week for two weeks, to be repeated after a five- week interval, or to no treatment (control group). The patients in both groups were instructed as to the prophylactic hygienic care of the limb. Lymphedema was assessed by the sum of differences in circumference measurements between affected and normal limbs ('delta'). Response was defined as a ≤ 25% reduction in delta value. Results: Eighty patients entered the study. No statistically significant differences in response rates between the two groups were observed: 20% in the control group (95% Cl: 9%- 36%), 25% in the PC group (95% Cl: 13%-41%, P = 0.59). The absolute mean decrease in delta value was 1.9 ± 3.7 cm in the PC group and 0.5 ± 3.3 cm in the control group. Conclusions: We demonstrated that intermittent pneumatic compression has a limited clinical role in the treatment of postmastectomy lymphedema. Efforts to prevent this complication should be undertaken.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-190
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1998


  • Breast neoplasm
  • Pneumatic compression
  • Postmastectomy lymphedema
  • Randomized study
  • Supportive care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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