Background: Below-knee cast immobilization is associated with an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis secondary to venous stasis. We investigated the effect of weight-bearing in a below-knee cast or pneumatic walking boot on lower limb venous blood flow.
Methods: Duplex ultrasonography was used to measure venous blood flow in the popliteal vein of 10 healthy volunteers. Venous blood flow was measured while at rest, ambulating non-weight-bearing, partial weight-bearing, and full weight-bearing. Measurements were performed without ankle joint immobilization, with the ankle immobilized in a neutral cast, and with the ankle immobilized in a pneumatic walking boot in both neutral and equinus.
Results: There was no significant reduction in venous blood flow measurements between full weight-bearing without ankle joint immobilization and full weight-bearing in a neutral cast or neutral pneumatic walking boot. However, venous blood flow was reduced when partial weight-bearing (50%) and when full weight-bearing in a pneumatic walking boot in equinus.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate that venous blood flow returned to normal levels when the subjects were permitted to fully bear weight in below-knee casts or walking boots, provided that the ankle joint was not in equinus.
Clinical relevance: Weight-bearing status and ankle joint position should be appreciated during decisions for the provision of chemical thromboprophylaxis.
Keywords: boot; cast; deep vein thrombosis.
© The Author(s) 2014.