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Squeezing someone’s legs after they’ve had a stroke may reduce their risk of dying

Squeezing someone’s legs after they’ve had a stroke may reduce their risk of dying

  • Study revealed that compression reduced the risk of deep vein thrombosis
  • Until now, there has been no treatment to reduces the risk of blood clots
  • Compression wraps would cost the NHS as little as £25 per pair

By Emily Payne

PUBLISHED: 23:06 GMT, 30 May 2013 | UPDATED: 23:06 GMT, 30 May 2013

Squeezing a person’s leg after they have suffered a stroke could save their life, according to new research.

Experts found that wrapping a compression device around the legs of a stroke patient could reduce the risk of blood clots, which often result in death.

Compression reduces the risk of clots in the veins of the legs by increasing blood flow.

New research shows that gentle compression of the leg after a stroke could reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis, which commonly affects stroke patients

The results of the trial, carried out by Edinburgh University, revealed that intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC), implemented by an inflatable leg wrap, reduced the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which commonly affects stroke patients.

DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism, which blocks patients’ blood vessels in their lungs and can cause heart failure, killing thousands of people each year.


The study, tested more than 2800 stroke patients in hundreds of hospitals across the UK.

It shows that the wraps can reduce the chances of death when they are worn for several days or weeks after the stroke.

The necessary IPC wraps, costing the NHS £25 per pair, are inflated for a few seconds, one leg at a time, to compress the veins in the legs every minute or so.

Until now, no treatment has been available that safely reduces the risk of the blood clots in the legs.

Until now, there have been limited treatments to cut the risk of dangerous blood clots in stroke patients

Current treatments include blood thinning injections, which have been shown to reduce the risk of DVT, but these carry an increased risk of bleeding on the brain.

Experts also believe blood thinning injections are not conclusively shown to reduce the risk of dying after stroke.

Around 15 million people suffer a stroke each year worldwide – one third of whom will die. Another third will become permanently disabled.

It is the second most common cause of death worldwide.

Professor Martin Dennis, of the University of Edinburgh’s Division of Clinical Neurosciences, said: ‘At last we have a simple, safe and affordable treatment that reduces the risk of DVT and even appears to reduce the risk of dying after a stroke.

‘We estimate that this treatment could potentially help about 60,000 stroke patients each year in the UK. If this number were treated, we would prevent about 3000 developing a DVT and perhaps save 1500 lives.

‘We believe that the national guidelines need to be revised in the light of our findings.

‘The current national guidelines have suggested that IPC should be considered only where blood thinning injections are unsuccessful or inappropriate, but this research suggests that IPC should be used in all patients at high risk of DVT.’

Dr Dale Webb, Director of Research and Information at the Stroke Association said: ‘Following a stroke, the risk of developing blood clots and DVT increases considerably which can be extremely dangerous for the patient.

‘At the moment some stroke survivors receive anti-blood clotting medication, however this isn’t effective in everyone.

‘This new device has the potential to save thousands of lives and we would like to see it incorporated into national clinical guidelines.’

The findings were published in the Lancet.

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