Objective To systematically review the randomized trials, observational studies, and survey evidence on compression and pneumatic devices for thromboprophylaxis in intensive care patients.

Methods Published studies on the use of compression and pneumatic devices in intensive care patients were assessed. A meta-analysis was conducted by using the randomized controlled trials.

Results A total of 21 relevant studies (5 randomized controlled trials, 13 observational studies, and 3 surveys) were found. A total of 811 patients were randomized in the 5 randomized controlled trials; 3421 patients participated in the observational studies. Trauma patients only were enrolled in 4 randomized controlled trials and 4 observational studies. Meta-analysis of 2 randomized controlled trials with similar populations and outcomes revealed that use of compression and pneumatic devices did not reduce the incidence of venous thromboembolism. The pooled risk ratio was 2.37, indicative of favoring the control over the intervention in reducing the deep venous thrombosis; however, the 95% CI of 0.57 to 9.90 indicated no significant differences between the intervention and the control. A range of methodological issues, including bias and confounding variables, make meaningful interpretation of the observational studies difficult.

Conclusions The limited evidence suggests that use of compressive and pneumatic devices yields results not significantly different from results obtained with no treatment or use of low-molecular-weight heparin. Until large randomized controlled trials are conducted, the role of mechanical approaches to thromboprophylaxis for intensive care patients remains uncertain.

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