From the Journals

Supplementary compression doesn’t improve DVT odds in critically ill



– In critically ill patients receiving pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis, adjunct intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) had no effect on the rates of lower-limb deep vein thrombosis (DVT), according to a new trial.

Dr. Yaseen M. Arabi, chairman, intensive care department, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Jim Kling/MDedge News

Dr. Yaseen M. Arabi

“I was surprised. My hypothesis was that it would work,” said lead author Yaseen M. Arabi, MD, chairman of the intensive care department at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Many physicians routinely carry out the practice on the assumption that IPC should lead to better blood flow and further cut DVT risk. The procedure carries few risks, aside from patient discomfort. “The main issue is that it’s not needed. It might be useful in patients who are not receiving heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin,” said Dr. Arabi, who presented the results of the study at the Critical Care Congress sponsored by the Society of Critical Care Medicine. The study was simultaneously published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Unfractionated or low-molecular-weight heparin reduces the risk of DVT by about 50%, but about 5%-20% of critically ill patients will develop DVT in spite of treatment, and mechanical thromboprophylaxis reduces DVT risk, compared with no prophylaxis. Some researchers have attempted to address whether adjunct intermittent pneumatic compression could further reduce DVT risk, but their studies were marked by a lack of controls, unoptimized pharmacologic regimens, and other limitations.

The trial included 2,003 adults from 20 sites in Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India, who were expected to have an intensive care unit stay of at least 72 hours. They were randomized to receive IPC combined with pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis (pneumatic compression group) or pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis alone (control).


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