Leg compression devices are not a significant factor in in-hospital falls

Research Activities, January 2012, No. 377

Sequential compression devices (SCDs) help to prevent development of a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, in hospitalized patients. However, physicians and nurses frequently decline to utilize this therapy. They fear that such devices, which sequentially squeeze the leg to keep the blood flowing, increase the risk of in-hospital falls, because patients may trip over the tubing that connects the pneumatic sleeves around the legs to the fixed pump on the patient bed. However, a new study demonstrates that SCDs are only rarely implicated in in-hospital falls, dispelling a common misconception. Moreover, such falls are not associated with significant patient harm. Only 16 of 3,562 falls at a university-affiliated hospital were SCD-related falls, according to the 5-year study by a research team from the Johns Hopkins University. Of the 16 SCD-related falls, only 2 caused temporary harm that required intervention.

SCDs play a critical adjunctive role in the prevention of venous thromboembolism (VTE), which occurs when a leg clot travels to the lungs or other area. VTE is responsible for 100,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Despite the evident threat of VTE to patients, rates of compliance with provider orders for use of SCDs remain at approximately 50 percent. This study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17952).

See "Are sequential compression devices commonly associated with in-hospital falls? A myth-busters review using the Patient Safety Net Database," by Matthew M. Boelig, M.D., Michael B. Streiff, M.D., Deborah B. Hobson, B.S.N., and others in the June 2011 Journal of Patient Safety 7(2), pp. 77-79.

Page last reviewed January 2012
Internet Citation: Leg compression devices are not a significant factor in in-hospital falls: Research Activities, January 2012, No. 377. January 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jan12/0112RA16.html