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Researchers examined the home use of pneumatic compression garments to treat lymphedema. The garments inflate and deflate in cycles to help drain buildup of lymph fluid that causes the swelling.
The average annual cost of care for a patient with lymphedema fell from slightly more than $62,000 to $50,000 when the pneumatic compression devices were used at home, according to the study published online Dec. 3 in the journal PLoS One.
"Total health-care costs for these patients are very high, but can be profoundly reduced with treatment intervention, in this case a compression device," senior author Dr. Stanley Rockson, A professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University, said in a university news release.
"This is clearly a compelling argument for increased coverage of similar home-care devices to reduce costs," he added.
Other home treatments for lymphedema include lymphatic massage and special bandaging techniques. The Stanford team focused on pneumatic compression devices because it was the easiest therapy to track using health insurance data, not necessarily because it's the best treatment, they said.
The researchers estimated that about 121,000 Americans have lymphedema.
"Cancer rates are expected to continue increasing at significant rates for the next 20 years. We can expect to see corresponding increasing rates of lymphedema," Rockson said.
"The potential public health implications of these findings are substantial. As the American population ages and lymphedema rates increase, effective home therapies are likely to become increasingly important," he concluded.
-- Robert Preidt
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