If you have deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, chronic vein disease, or need surgery that will keep you in bed for lengthy periods of time, your doctor may recommend you use intermittent pneumatic compression.
That’s a mouthful! What’s intermittent pneumatic compression? Let’s break it down:
- Intermittent – in intervals
- Pneumatic – using air
- Compression – with a squeezing motion
This intermittent therapy helps prevent blood clots from forming in the extremities, especially useful for people with vein problems, lymphedema, or after surgery. Your legs or arms are inserted into a plastic or cloth sleeve and an air pump inflates the sleeve with air at regular intervals. This squeezing action provides pressure that helps circulate blood from your veins and back to your heart and reduces the chance that you’ll develop dangerous clots.
Doctors may also refer to the machine that pumps the air as a sequential compression device.
Using these devices can cut the risk of deep vein thrombosis by up to 60%, some research studies show. In addition to using intermittent pneumatic compression, your doctor may recommend that you take medications to thin your blood and use compression stockings to support your veins and improve blood flow.