A sequential compression device (or intermittent pneumatic compression device) is designed to improve blood and fluid flow in people with vein disorders or lymphedema. In many cases, doctors recommend these medical devices for use in post-surgical patients at increased risk of blood clots.
But are they safe, and do they increase the risk of falls? A 2008 editorial in the American Journal of Nursing suggested that patients who wear these devices and try to walk may trip over the bulky sleeves used to help circulate the body’s fluid.
To examine the issue of whether these devices pose a safety risk, researchers from the Department of Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania examined almost 5 years of patient safety data from a large, urban hospital. Their study noted how many SCDS falls occurred, compared to the number of days pneumatic compression users spent in the hospital. Overall, they looked at 3.562 falls that occurred at their hospital during the 5-year period.
The results? Using these devices failed to increase the risk of falls. Out of the 3,562 falls that took place, only 16 were related to using SCDS. Most of the falls occurred in a surgical ward and while patients were trying to get to the toilet. All but two of the falls were minor and required no medical intervention.
If you need to use a sequential compression device for lymphedema or other vein disorder, rest assured that the devices won’t contribute to an increased risk of falls and won’t increase the risk of a dangerous spill. However, it still pays to be careful, so here are a few tips to prevent injuries if you use these devices at home:
- Choose a clear area to use SCDS. Move items on the floor and around the chair or couch so you have a clear area in case you need to get up quickly. Remove rugs that could become bunched or otherwise impede your movement.
- Take the time to use the toilet before beginning to use a sequential device.
- Have a friend or family member nearby in case you need help getting up after using the device.
- Give yourself plenty of time to use the device. Don’t schedule appointments or activities right after a session with your SCDS; clear your schedule so you are free to move slowly and at your own pace.
- Keep a cane, walker, or scooter chair nearby if you need one, so you can access it immediately after using the device.
- Ask your doctor about tips for using these medical devices safely and for other tips on avoiding falls.