Study/Article

Flexitouch – A Pilot, Prospective Evaluation of a Novel Alternative Maintenance Therapy of Breast Cancer-Associated Lymphedema


Authors: Olivia Wilburn, MD, PhD, Paul Wilburn, and Stanley G. Rockson, MD

PublishedBMC Cancer. 2006; Vol. 6(1): 84–89

PURPOSE:

Prospective investigations of complete decongestive lymphatic physiotherapy (CDPT), including manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), have validated the efficacy of these interventions for the initial reduction of edema and long-term maintenance of limb volume in lymphedema. However, CDPT demands substantial time and effort from patients to maintain these benefits; the treatments are not always well-accepted, and patients may suffer from a deterioration in quality of life or a time-dependent loss of initial treatment benefits. A new device designed for home use by the patient, the Flexitouch system, has been developed to mechanically simulate MLD. We have undertaken a prospective, randomized, crossover study of the efficacy of the Flexitouch system, when compared to massage, in the self-administered maintenance therapy of lymphedema.

RESULTS:

Post-treatment arm volume reduced significantly after using the Flexitouch system, but not after self-administered massage. The patients’ mean weight decreased significantly with Flexitouch use, but not with self-massage. The device was apparently well-tolerated and accepted by patients.

CONCLUSIONS:

This short-term prospective evaluation of the Flexitouch system suggests the device may provide better maintenance for edema control than self-administered massage in breast cancer-associated lymphedema.