The weight of the evidence to date suggests that intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) is effective in reducing the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in hospitalized patients with stroke. 1,2 Whether IPC is also effective in non-surgical hospitalized patients without stroke at high risk of DVT and major bleed needs further studies.
A 2013 multicenter randomized trial (CLOTS 3) involving over 2,000 immobile hospitalized patients post-stroke found a significantly lower risk of DVT in proximal veins or any symptomatic DVT in the proximal veins within 30 days of randomization (8.5% vs 12.1%; absolute reduction risk 3.6%, 95% C.I. 1.4-5.8). Of note, the rate of concurrent heparin or low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) prophylaxis was similar between the 2 groups (17%). 1
A meta-analysis including the CLOTS 3 study and 2 other smaller trials 2 in patients with stroke found a risk reduction for proximal DVT (O.R. 0.66, 95% C.I 0.52-0.84) with nearly significant reduction in deaths by the end of the treatment period (O.R. 0.81, 95% 0.65-1.01).1
Although IPC may also be effective in non-surgical hospitalized patients without stroke but at high risk of DVT and bleed, proper trials in this patient population is lacking. In fact, the 2012 American College of Chest Physicians guidelines on antithrombotic therapy and prevention of thrombosis classifies use of IPC in preventing DVT’s in non-surgical acutely ill hospitalized patients as category 2C recommendation (weak, low quality evidence). 3
The patient population and methodology of above studies should be distinguished from those of a 2019 published trial involving only critically ill patients—all receiving pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis—which reported no reduction in the incidence of proximal lower-limb DVT with the addition of IPC. 4
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that venous thromboembolism has been reported in up to 42% of hospitalized patients who have had a stroke? 1
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- Dennis M, Sandercock P, Reid J, et al. Effectiveness of intermittent pneumatic compression in reduction of risk of deep vein thrombosis in patients who have had a stroke (CLOTS 3): a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Lancet 2013;382:516-24. https://www.thelancet.com/cms/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61050-8/attachment/1a0438d2-86eb-4da1-8bdb-92c0aec18b8d/mmc1.pdf
- Naccarato M, Chiodo Grandi F, Dennis M, et al. Physical methods for preventing deep vein thrombosis in stroke. Cochrance Database Syst Rev 2010;8:CD001922. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001922.pub3/full
- Guyatt GH, Akl EA, Crowther M, et al. Executive summary: Antithrombotic therapy and prevention of thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. CHEST 2012;141 (suppl):7S-47S. http://www.sphcs.org/workfiles/CardiacVascular/7S-full.pdf
- Arabi YM, Al-Hameed F, Burns KEA, et al. Adjunctive intermittent pneumatic compression for venous thromboprophylaxis. N Engl J Med 2019;380:1305-15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30779530/
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