Last month at the Venous Forum in London, Professor Martin Dennis presented the results of research showing that 1 in 5 people who have a stroke also develop a Deep Vein Thrombosis and that 1 in 10 stroke victims will have a pulmonary embolism (a clot which travels to the lungs). The study called CLOTS 3 also confirms that many of these DVTs can be prevented (up to a third).
As a result of this research, hospitals across England are preparing to receive potentially lifesaving equipment to prevent deep vein thrombosis in patients immobilised by a recent stroke. The equipment is called intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) devices, which include an air pump and inflatable “sleeves”. The sleeves are wrapped round the legs of patients unable to walk following a stroke. The IPC device works by inflating the sleeves and alternately compressing each leg to keep the blood flow moving and preventing clot formation.
The initiative is funded by NHS Improving Quality, as part of its Living Longer Lives work programme. The cause of DVT in patients with stroke is immobility (lack of movement). Immobility is the same reason that people on a long haul flight are at an increased risk of DVT. However, unlike long haul travellers, “flight socks” do not reduce DVT in stroke victims. IPC devices have been used for years in surgical wards and in hospital operating theatres, so it is perhaps not surprising that they benefit stroke patients.
Anyone who is admitted to hospital is at risk of a DVT and as part of the admission procedure, everyone should have a DVT risk assessment with a view to receiving appropriate anti-DVT prophylaxis. If you know someone who is in hospital, make sure they know the current NICE guidelines.