Compression sleeves and flying increase lymphedema risk?


Question from MELB: My therapist says if you've never had lymphedema, wearing a compression sleeve on a plane will actually increase the risk of developing lymphedema. She says there is already compression in the plane, and adding even more compression with a sleeve will be way too much on a compromised arm. Is there formal study evidence showing anything to support either side of the flight controversy?
Answers - Kathryn Schmitz Yes, I can answer this. I love it when you go to a conference and you hear something and can tell someone about it. Sandi Hayes in Australia has done a small study, and she's planning on repeating it larger. She asked people to get measured before and after an airplane flight, and she found no effect. She's planning on repeating on a trans-Pacific flight from Sydney to San Francisco to confirm cross-continent flights. I will also comment that I think the reality – given that lymphedema garments are not often covered by third party payers, need to be fitted individually, and need to be replaced every 6 months – of burdening a woman who does not currently have lymphedema with a non-covered visit to a lymphedema therapist and the several hundred dollars for a garment every 6 months, is overkill. I'll also say that in light of this, it's clear from my interaction with women that they take this advice and translate it into putting on poorly fitting compression garments or off-the-shelf Ace bandages, which indeed could do more harm than good.

On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Preventing and Treating Arm Lymphedema. Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S.M.,Nicole Stout, M.P.T. C.L.T.-L.A.N.A., and moderator Jennifer Sabol, M.D., F.A.S.C. answered your questions about ways to prevent and manage lymphedema.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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