Adjunctive Intermittent Pneumatic Compression for Venous Thromboprophylaxis

N Engl J Med. 2019 Apr 4;380(14):1305-1315. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1816150. Epub 2019 Feb 18.


Background: Whether adjunctive intermittent pneumatic compression in critically ill patients receiving pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis would result in a lower incidence of deep-vein thrombosis than pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis alone is uncertain.

Methods: We randomly assigned patients who were considered adults according to the local standards at the participating sites (≥14, ≥16, or ≥18 years of age) within 48 hours after admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) to receive either intermittent pneumatic compression for at least 18 hours each day in addition to pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis with unfractionated or low-molecular-weight heparin (pneumatic compression group) or pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis alone (control group). The primary outcome was incident (i.e., new) proximal lower-limb deep-vein thrombosis, as detected on twice-weekly lower-limb ultrasonography after the third calendar day since randomization until ICU discharge, death, attainment of full mobility, or trial day 28, whichever occurred first.

Results: A total of 2003 patients underwent randomization - 991 were assigned to the pneumatic compression group and 1012 to the control group. Intermittent pneumatic compression was applied for a median of 22 hours (interquartile range, 21 to 23) daily for a median of 7 days (interquartile range, 4 to 13). The primary outcome occurred in 37 of 957 patients (3.9%) in the pneumatic compression group and in 41 of 985 patients (4.2%) in the control group (relative risk, 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.60 to 1.44; P = 0.74). Venous thromboembolism (pulmonary embolism or any lower-limb deep-vein thrombosis) occurred in 103 of 991 patients (10.4%) in the pneumatic compression group and in 95 of 1012 patients (9.4%) in the control group (relative risk, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.85 to 1.44), and death from any cause at 90 days occurred in 258 of 990 patients (26.1%) and 270 of 1011 patients (26.7%), respectively (relative risk, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.84 to 1.13).

Conclusions: Among critically ill patients who were receiving pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis, adjunctive intermittent pneumatic compression did not result in a significantly lower incidence of proximal lower-limb deep-vein thrombosis than pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis alone. (Funded by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center; PREVENT number, NCT02040103; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN44653506.).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Heparin / adverse effects
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices* / adverse effects
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lower Extremity / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography
  • Venous Thromboembolism
  • Venous Thrombosis / epidemiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Heparin

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN44653506