Objective: The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the benefits of compression and walking exercises in comparison with bed rest in the acute stage of proximal deep venous thrombosis (DVT).
Methods: Forty-five patients with proximal DVT that was proved with compression ultrasound scan or phlebography were randomized into three groups. Group A consisted of 15 patients who received inelastic compression bandages (Unna boots on the lower leg, adhesive bandages on the thigh), and group B consisted of 15 patients who received thigh-length compression stockings, class II. Group C consisted of 15 patients who underwent bed rest and no compression. All patients received dalteparin, 200 IU/kg per body weight, subcutaneously every 24 hours. The clinical characteristics of the three groups were comparable. Primary end points were the reduction of pain assessed daily with the Visual Analogue Scale and the Lowenberg test, the reduction of leg circumference at the ankle and calf levels, and the improvement of clinical scores. The daily walking distance was measured with a pedometer. Safety parameters were ventilation-perfusion scans and duplex ultrasound scans performed on days 0 and 9.
Results: The daily walking distance was between 600 and 12,000 m in the compression groups and averaged 66 m in the bed rest group. The pain level showed a statistically significant reduction starting after the second day in the compression groups (A and B) and after 9 days in the bed rest group C (P <.05). The same was true for the measurement of leg circumference. Improvement of the clinical scores was significantly better in the compression groups compared with the bed rest group (P <.01). There was no significant difference concerning the occurrence of new pulmonary emboli and regression of thrombus diameter. Progression of thrombi in the femoral vein was greater and occurred more frequently in the bed rest group than in the other two groups (P = not significant).
Conclusion: Mobile patients with acute proximal DVT treated with low molecular weight heparin should be encouraged to walk with compression bandages or medical compression stockings. The rate of resolution of pain and swelling is significantly faster when the patient ambulates with compression. The risk of pulmonary embolism is not significantly increased by this approach.