Can foot compression under a plaster cast prevent deep-vein thrombosis during lower limb immobilisation?

Bone Joint J. 2013 Sep;95-B(9):1227-31. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.95B9.31162.


We hypothesised that adjuvant intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) beneath a plaster cast would reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) during post-operative immobilisation of the lower limb. Of 87 patients with acute tendo Achillis (TA) rupture, 26 were prospectively randomised post-operatively after open TA repair. The treatment group (n = 14) received two weeks of IPC of the foot for at least six hours daily under a plaster cast. The control group (n = 12) had no additional treatment. At two weeks post-operatively all patients received an orthosis until follow-up at six weeks. At two and six weeks the incidence of DVT was assessed using colour duplex sonography by two ultrasonographers blinded to the treatment. Two patients withdrew from the study due to inability to tolerate IPC treatment. An interim analysis demonstrated a high incidence of DVT in both the IPC group (9 of 12, 75%) and the controls (6 of 12, 50%) (p = 0.18). No significant differences in incidence were detected at two (p = 0.33) or six weeks (p = 0.08) post-operatively. Malfunction of the IPC leading to a second plaster cast was found to correlate with an increased DVT risk at two weeks (ϕ = 0.71; p = 0.019), leading to a premature abandonment of the study. We cannot recommend adjuvant treatment with foot IPC under a plaster cast for outpatient DVT prevention during post-operative immobilisation, owing to a high incidence of DVT related to malfunctioning of this type of IPC application.

Keywords: Achilles tendon rupture; Deep-vein thrombosis; Intermittent pneumatic foot compression; Plaster cast.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / injuries
  • Achilles Tendon / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Casts, Surgical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immobilization / methods*
  • Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rupture / surgery
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult