Prophylactic Use of Compression Sleeves Reduces the Incidence of Arm Swelling in Women at High Risk of Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Clin Oncol. 2022 Jun 20;40(18):2004-2012. doi: 10.1200/JCO.21.02567. Epub 2022 Feb 2.


Purpose: To determine whether prophylactic use of compression sleeves prevents arm swelling in women who had undergone axillary lymph node dissection for breast cancer surgery.

Methods: Women (n = 307) were randomly assigned to either a compression or control group. In addition to usual postoperative care, the compression group received two compression sleeves to wear postoperatively until 3 months after completing adjuvant treatments. Arm swelling was determined using bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) thresholds and relative arm volume increase (RAVI). Incidence and time free from arm swelling were compared using Kaplan-Meier analyses. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated from Cox regression models for BIS and RAVI thresholds independently. In addition, time to documentation of the first minimally important difference (MID) in four scales of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and the breast cancer-specific (BR23) questionnaire was analyzed.

Results: The HR for developing arm swelling in the compression group relative to the control group was 0.61 (95% CI, 0.43 to 0.85; P = .004) on the basis of BIS and 0.56 (95% CI, 0.33 to 0.96; P = .034) on the basis of RAVI. The estimated cumulative incidence of arm swelling at 1 year was lower in the compression group than the control group on the basis of BIS (42% v 52%) and RAVI (14% v 25%). HRs for time from baseline to the first change of the minimally important difference were not statistically significant for any of the four scales of EORTC QLQ-30 and BR23 questionnaires.

Conclusion: Prophylactic use of compression sleeves compared with the control group reduced and delayed the occurrence of arm swelling in women at high risk for lymphedema in the first year after surgery for breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Arm / pathology
  • Breast Cancer Lymphedema* / epidemiology
  • Breast Cancer Lymphedema* / etiology
  • Breast Cancer Lymphedema* / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Edema
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lymph Node Excision / adverse effects
  • Lymphedema* / epidemiology
  • Lymphedema* / etiology
  • Lymphedema* / prevention & control
  • Quality of Life

Associated data

  • CTRI/CTRI/2017/12/010762