Best Practice Statement

The use of compression therapy for peripheral oedema: considerations in people with heart failure

An estimated 26 million individuals worldwide are affected by heart failure (Ambrosy et al., 2014). The prevalence of this condition is expected to rise due to several factors. Firstly, heart failure is more frequently observed in older adults as the risk increases with age. Additionally, advancements in healthcare and improved access to nutritious food have contributed to increased life expectancy, further contributing to the rise in heart failure cases. Furthermore, due to advancements in emergency medical care and treatment, individuals who experience a cardiac event are more likely to survive and subsequently develop heart failure (Hobbs et al., 2002; Bleumink et al., 2004). Lastly, there is a noticeable rise in the number of patients with risk factors for heart failure, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and socioeconomic disadvantages (Danielsen et al., 2017).

Heart failure manifests as a clinical syndrome characterized by various signs and symptoms of varying severity. These symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and the accumulation of excess fluid in the arms or lower legs, referred to as peripheral oedema. The global prevalence of peripheral oedema in the lower legs is on the rise, and from the perspective of patients, living with this condition can have a detrimental impact on their quality of life and overall well-being. Uncontrolled or severe lower limb oedema commonly leads to complications such as lymphorrhea and ulceration, significantly increasing the risk of chronic ulceration, patient suffering, and imposing a substantial financial burden on healthcare systems.

This document addresses the use of compression therapy in conjunction with medical treatments to manage lower limb oedema to reduce inflammation and swelling and ultimately accelerate healing. Compression therapy is the gold standard of care for treating lower limb oedema and ulceration; however, uncorrected knowledge gaps and misconceptions surrounding its use for patients with heart failure can deter healthcare professionals from applying it. This document also addresses common misconceptions about compression therapy and provides the information necessary to understand compression therapy’s fundamental principles, as well as the value of a multidisciplinary approach that ensures that the patient receives the best care possible.

The purpose of this document is to explore the utilization of compression therapy in combination with medical treatments as a means to manage lower limb oedema, reduce inflammation and swelling, and ultimately promote faster healing. Compression therapy is widely recognized as the preferred method for addressing lower limb oedema and ulceration. However, there exist knowledge gaps and misconceptions regarding its application among healthcare professionals when treating patients with heart failure. This document aims to dispel common misconceptions surrounding compression therapy and provide comprehensive information on its fundamental principles. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to ensure patients receive optimal care and highlights the value of integrating various healthcare disciplines.

This document was developed with the following overall objectives:

  • To provide an overview of heart failure and compression therapy as a treatment approach for symptoms of the condition
  • To assist practitioners in appropriately assessing for, choosing and applying compression therapy when managing a patient with lower limb oedema or ulceration in combination with heart failure
  • To encourage all clinical and support staff to collaborate in order to provide consistent care to patients with varying degrees of heart failure and oedema/ulceration.

It includes an excellent decision-making pathway for compression therapy in patients with heart failure.

Best Practice Statement: The use of compression therapy for peripheral oedema: considerations in people with heart failure