Intermittent pneumatic compression dosage for adults and children with lymphedema: A systematic review

J. Jane Phillips, Susan J. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Pneumatic compression has been used for more than 40 years in the management of lymphedema (LE). Modes of application have evolved with little consensus regarding optimal treatment parameters or dosage. The aim of this systematic review was to report the evidence for dosage of intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) for people with LE and, particularly, that for upper versus lower limbs or child versus adult dosage. Methods: Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PubMed, and Scopus were searched with terms, including LE and IPC devices, with no restriction on time. Other materials searched included reference lists of included articles. Study Selections: Systematic review registration: PROSPERO ID: CRD42017054338. Studies were assessed according to PRISMA (preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses) guidelines and were excluded if they were not in English, not human, had physiological outcomes, or studied IPC in combination with other therapies. Quality appraisal, using the McMaster University Critical Review Tool, was undertaken by two researchers with differences resolved by a third. One hundred twenty-two full-text studies were screened for eligibility. Results: Sixteen met inclusion criteria for final analysis. Of these, four were reported separately due to concurrent use of compression garments during the study period. One randomized controlled trial met the requirements for a level II (National Health and Medical Research Council) rating; the remainder were level III-2 and below. Devices applying compression via multichamber sleeves were more commonly used in the past 20 years, with a trend toward lower pressures and shorter treatment times compared with earlier studies. Little evidence exists for application of specific dosage of IPC for children or a particular limb. New devices utilizing lower pressures support home use and self-management of LE. Conclusion: Low-level evidence of moderate quality shows significant outcomes achieved with dosage times of 45-60 minutes, applying pressures between 30 and 60 mmHg in sequential IPC programs. Methodological limitations in most studies suggest caution in drawing conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-18
Number of pages17
JournalLymphatic Research and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019


  • application
  • intermittent pneumatic compression
  • lymphedema
  • pressure


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