Introduction: Hip fractures are the most common cause of acute admissions to orthopaedics units and in the UK approximately 70,000-75,000 hip fractures occur annually. Hip fractures carry a significant risk of developing a venous thromboembolism. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimated that the risk of developing a venous thromboembolism in patients with hip fractures who do not receive thromboprophylaxis is 43%. In their recent guidelines, NICE recommended that combined mechanical and pharmacological thromboprophylaxis should be offered to patients undergoing hip fracture surgery and mechanical prophylaxis should be commenced at admission. The aim of this review was to search for available evidence that could support using graduated compression stockings combined with low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) in hip fracture patients.
Methods: NICE guidelines and the reference list of the guidance were reviewed and a thorough literature search was performed on main electronic databases (MEDLINE(®), Embase™ and the Cochrane Library).
Results: A literature search was unable to find sufficient evidence to support the use of graduated compression stockings combined with LMWH in hip fracture settings. The guidelines are critically reviewed and the available evidence is discussed.
Conclusions: The evidence supporting these recommendations is very limited and there is considerable concern regarding the safety and efficacy of the mechanical devices used in thromboprophylaxis. Further studies are needed urgently before specific guidelines can be agreed confidently for patients with hip fractures.