Lower limb venous and arterial peripheral diseases and work conditions: systematic review

Occup Environ Med. 2021 Jan;78(1):4-14. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106375. Epub 2020 May 21.


Objectives: The individual peripheral vascular disease risk factors are well documented, but the role of work conditions remains equivocal. This systematic review aims to assess relationships between lower limb peripheral venous diseases (lower limb varicose veins (LLVV), venous thromboembolism (VTE) comprising deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism), peripheral arterial disease (intermittent claudication, aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm) and occupational constraints among working adults.

Methods: Several databases were systematically searched until February 2019 for observational studies and clinical trials. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses method was used for article selection. Quality assessment and risk of bias were evaluated using Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology and Newcastle-Ottawa scales.

Results: Among the 720 screened articles, 37 remained after full-text evaluation. Among the 21 studies on LLVV, prolonged standing was significantly associated to a higher risk of varicose veins with a threshold probably around >3 to 4 hours/day but exposure duration in years was not sufficiently considered. Seated immobility was often observed in workers, with no sufficient evidence to prove that prolonged sitting at work is related to VTE. Carrying heavy loads, stress at work and exposure to high temperatures have emerged more recently notably in relation to varicose veins but need to be better explored. Only three studies discussed the potential role of work on peripheral arterial disease development.

Conclusions: Although some observational studies showed that prolonged standing can be related to varicose veins and that seated immobility at work could be linked to VTE, very little is known about peripheral arterial disease and occupational constraints. Clinical trials to determine preventive strategies at work are needed.

Prospero registration number: CRD42019127652.

Keywords: cardiovascular; exposure assessment; occupational health practice; physical work.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sitting Position
  • Standing Position
  • Varicose Veins / epidemiology*
  • Venous Thromboembolism / epidemiology*