Role of compression modalities in a prophylactic program for deep vein thrombosis

Semin Thromb Hemost. 1988:14 Suppl:77-87.


During the past decade, we have learned a great deal about the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of thromboembolic disease. Subcutaneous heparin has emerged as a major deterrent worldwide for thrombosis prevention but is associated with the potential risk of bleeding and cannot be used in certain patient situations. External compression modalities have emerged as major alternate forms of prophylaxis. We have learned that these devices stimulate the fibrinolytic system, prevent stasis and the endothelial injury that can accompany extreme venous distention. Since they are not associated with bleeding or other serious complications, they are attractive methods for most surgeons, including those performing delicate or complex surgical procedures. Independent studies worldwide have demonstrated their effectiveness in reducing deep vein thrombosis, as recognized by the NIH Consensus Development Panel, and the evidence is compelling that DVT efficacy is a valid marker for PE efficacy. Since these devices reduce the incidence of deep vein thrombosis, they almost certainly must prevent pulmonary emboli; however, a properly designed protocol should be conducted to validate these assumptions. Evidence suggests that full-leg sequential compression is superior to calf compression, but further study is necessary. We believe that a hospital-wide plan, including risk-factor assessment and application of clinical management guidelines, including all available modalities, is important to provide the maximum protection of patients with the lowest risk of side effects. Such a program has been very successful in our community.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clothing*
  • Humans
  • Thrombophlebitis / prevention & control*