Compression systems are one of the most effective ways to treat venous disorders. Understanding compression systems requires a basic understanding of how our circulatory system works. Made up of a system of blood vessels that move blood throughout our bodies propelled by the beating of our hearts, our circulatory system consists of arteries (which carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart) and veins (which carry the used, or oxygen-poor blood back to the heart.
Veins are hollow tubes that are flexible with valves (flaps) inside that open or close to keep the blood flowing in only one direction. When those valves become damaged due to a venous disorder, the valves might not work properly and fail to close all the way. When valves don’t close properly then blood doesn’t just flow in the proper direction, but in both directions, or it can leak backward.
Compression systems refers to compression garments or bandages that when applied to affected areas, place pressure on the distended veins pushing them together. Compression garments may be static (immobile, like an elastic bandage) or powered, containing air cells and capable of a “massage” type motion. Air is moved into the air cells of a garment via a pump set to a selected pressure. When the air cells are filled in a special sequence, a “wave” motion is created on the affected area similar to a massage. This massage encourages lymphatic uptake and venous return, which in turn lessens swelling and excess fluid.
Compression systems have been shown to effectively treat a variety of venous disorders. Here are a few examples of ailments and how compression is utilized to improve the condition.
Bandaging and wraps
Venus stasis ulcers usually occur in the legs and thought to be due to malfunctioning venous valves. They are the primary cause of chronic wounds. Excess fluid (edema) interferes with the healing process, so compression therapy is utilized to reduce swelling.
Negative pressure wound therapy
Negative pressure wound therapy, or “wound suction,” is especially useful in healing wounds that are difficult to treat with conventional wound dressings. Wounds that are large, or that would require frequent dressing changes, benefit from wound suction. By exerting negative pressure on a wound, the excess fluids are gently drawn from the wound. Think of it as a suction cup over the wound.
Lymphedema is swelling in parts of the body, sometimes severe and generally occurring in the arms and legs. This can lead to fibrosis. With compression therapy, pressure is placed on the arm or leg, promoting the lymphatics fluid uptake.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Often caused by a hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) affects the circulation in the legs and feet by affecting the peripheral arteries outside of the heart, the ones that keep your limbs supplied with oxygen-rich blood. Graduated compression therapy is considered one of the best ways to treat this disease.
You’ll also see compression systems used for venous insufficiency, non-healing wounds, and many others.