Background: Puffy hand syndrome is a complication of intravenous drug abuse, which has no current available treatment. Arm and forearm edema are voluminous and cause functional and aesthetic disturbances. We report two cases successfully treated by low-stretch bandages.
Observations: A 40-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman, both intravenous drug users, with puffy hand syndrome were hospitalized for 11 days. Treatment included daily multilayer bandaging. Lymphedema volumes calculated by utilizing the formula for a truncated cone decreased by 16% on the left side and 12% on the right side for the first patient and 31 and 17% for the second. Hand circumference decreased 4.3 cm on the left side and 3.2 cm on the right side in case 1, and 2.5 cm and 1.9 cm respectively for case 2. The patients were taught self-bandaging techniques during their hospital stays. Elastic gloves were fitted at the end of treatment. Reduction of lymphedema volume remained stable after 18 months in one patient while for the second patient further treatment and hospitalization were required due to poor compliance.
Discussion: The pathogenesis of this edema is probably multifactorial: venous, lymphatic insufficiency and the direct toxicity of injected drugs. Lymphedema treatment currently consists of low-stretch bandaging and wearing elastic garments, which is effective in decreasing the volume of puffy hand syndrome.