131 – Is a foot pump as effective as a lower extremity intermittent compression device for VTE prophylaxis?

131 – Is a foot pump as effective as a lower extremity intermittent compression device for VTE prophylaxis?

Tara G. Moncman, Alexander C. Top, Brian S. Winters, Charles Deltour, Jan F. Noyez.

Response/Recommendation: The use of a foot pump is as effective as a lower extremity intermittent compression device when used in combination with chemical prophylaxis.

Strength of Recommendation: Moderate.

Rationale: Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a prevalent early complication after lower extremity surgery and extended periods of immobilization1-3. Accurate prevention of these events is therefore of substantial importance following orthopaedic surgery to the lower limb. The foot pump is a recognized method of venous thromboembolism (VTE) prophylaxis after orthopaedic surgery4. The foot-sole pump works similarly to the lower extremity intermittent compression device (ICD), in that it simulates active weight-bearing in the bed-ridden patient through sudden and intermittent increases in venous flow. Overall, the foot pump has been shown to maintain venous circulation as well as normal ambulation4-6.

Various randomized control trials (RCT) have evaluated the effectiveness of the foot pump against DVT and pulmonary embolism (PE) after orthopaedic procedures. Although a significant effect is often reported4,7-10, there were limitations in many of these studies, including small sample sizes4,7-9 and a lack of power analysis4,7-11. In addition, DVT and PE were diagnosed by postoperative duplex ultrasonography, ascending venography, or perfusion scintigraphy regardless of symptoms, which likely overestimates the number of events4,7-8,10-12.

A number of studies have shown that the foot pump is not effective as monotherapy against VTE8,11-15. For example, a single large retrospective review of 1,659 primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) surgeries found the foot-sole pump alone to be less effective at preventing DVT15. Patients using only the foot pump had a significantly greater incidence of DVT (9.5%) compared to those who received combined mechanical and chemical prophylaxis (fondiparinux 0.7%, enoxaparin 0.0%).

However, combined prophylaxis consisting of both a foot pump and chemoprophylaxis is consistently reported to significantly lower the risk of DVT in comparison to the administration of chemoprophylaxis alone after orthopaedic procedures8,11,13,15-18. An RCT by Sakai et al., evaluated the effectiveness of the foot pump in 120 patients given edoxaban after total knee arthroplasty (TKA)13. The incidence of DVT was significantly reduced with combined prophylaxis of the foot pump with edoxaban (31.0%) compared to the control group with edoxaban alone (17.7%).

A small number of studies directly compared the foot pump to the lower extremity ICD. Although a single study did find the ICD to be preferred to the foot pump in combined mechanical and chemical VTE prophylaxis5, most studies report no significant differences between the two pump15,17-21. A comparative study of 121 patients evaluated the efficacy of the lower extremity ICD and foot pump by comparing pre-and postoperative D-dimer values following THA20. At seven days postoperative, the mean D-dimer value was significantly reduced for both pumps (< 10 μg/ml), whereas in patients using no pump it was significantly more elevated (16.5 μg/ml)20. Although promising results, there’s limited data on the correlation between actual clinical cases of DVT and the D-dimer value, undermining the strength of these findings22. A non-randomized controlled trial by Spain et al., compared the incidence DVT in 184 high-risk patients with lower extremity fractures using the foot pump or another lower extremity ICD21. Incidence of DVT (7% ICD; 3% foot pump) and PE (2 foot pump; 1 ICD) were similar between groups.

Interestingly, the foot-sole pump may have greater compliance and patient satisfaction than other lower extremity ICD11-12. The popular reasons for inpatient non-compliance include heat/sweating, discomfort, and sleep disturbance5,11-12,23-25. Since compliance to a lower extremity ICD is generally low and appliances are often placed incorrectly, a smaller, simpler device like the foot pump may be a user-friendlier and better-tolerated choice24,26-27.

To conclude, only few studies compared the foot-sole pump with other ICD and none of these mechanical means of VTE prophylaxis proved to be superior to one another.

However, patient compliance and user-friendliness are probably better with a foot-sole pump. A systematic review and meta-analysis of six RCT found that a lower extremity ICD combined with chemical prophylaxis decreases the risk of DVT after TKA and THA compared to chemical prophylaxis alone28. Likewise, the current guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians recommend combining chemical antithrombotic agents with ICD during a patient’s hospital stay28. Based on the current evidence, similar conclusions can be drawn in regard to the use of a foot pump. Therefore, the foot pump is as effective as other types of lower extremity ICD, when used in combination with chemical prophylaxis.


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