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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD001922.

Physical methods for preventing deep vein thrombosis in stroke.

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  • 1U.C.O. Clinica Neurologica, University of Trieste, Ospedale di Cattinara, Trieste, Italy, 34100.

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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and resulting pulmonary embolism (PE) are uncommon but important complications of stroke. There is good evidence that anticoagulants can reduce the risk of DVT and PE after stroke, but this benefit is offset by a small but definite risk of serious haemorrhages. Physical methods to prevent DVT and PE (such as compression stockings applied to the legs) are not associated with any bleeding risk and are effective in some categories of medical and surgical patients. We sought to assess their effects in stroke patients.


To assess the effectiveness and safety of physical methods of preventing the onset of deep vein thrombosis and fatal or non fatal pulmonary embolism in patients with recent stroke.


We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (last searched October 2001). In addition we searched the following electronic bibliographic databases: Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (1999, Issue 3), MEDLINE (1966- Jan 2001), EMBASE (1980- Jan 2001) and CINAHL (1982-May 1999). The reference lists of all relevant papers were screened for additional trials.


All completed randomised unconfounded trials or controlled clinical trials comparing physical methods in patients allocated to receive physical methods, applied within one week of onset of stroke, with patients allocated to no physical methods.


Two reviewers independently searched for relevant trials and three others independently checked the results.


We identified two small trials which included 123 patients. In one trial of 97 patients, compression stockings were associated with a non significant trend towards a reduction in DVT detected by Doppler ultrasound. In one trial of 26 patients, an intermittent pneumatic compression device was not associated with a significant reduction in DVT detected by 125-I-fibrinogen scanning. Overall, physical methods were not associated with a significant reduction in DVT (Odds ratio 0.59, 95%.CI 0.24-1.48) or death (Odds ratio 5.06, 95% CI 0.96-26.78).


There is insufficient evidence from randomised trials to support the routine use of physical methods for preventing DVT in acute stroke.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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