External pneumatic compression (EPC) devices prevent lower extremity deep venous thrombosis (DVT) by reducing stasis. There is a widely held belief that they also enhance endogenous fibrinolysis; however, recent studies of tissue plasminogen activator (the primary activator of fibrinolysis) and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (the primary inhibitor of fibrinolysis) failed to confirm this. The hypothesis of this study was that EPC devices increase the level of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA), a second activator of fibrinolysis. This was a prospective trial in which 44 subjects who underwent major abdominal surgery were randomized to receive unfractionated heparin injections, thigh-length sequential EPC devices, or both for DVT prophylaxis. Prophylaxis was begun immediately before surgical incision and continued until postoperative day 5 or discharge. Venous blood samples were collected from an antecubital vein for measurement of systemic uPA levels and from the common femoral vein for measurement of regional uPA levels. Samples were collected the day before surgery, after induction of anesthesia but before surgical incision, and on postoperative days 1, 3, and 5. uPA levels (ng/mL) were measured with an enzyme-linked immunoassay. Baseline uPA levels (0.41 to 0.56 ng/mL; P > .05, analysis of variance with repeated measures) were similar among the three groups. uPA levels did not change after surgery in systemic or regional blood samples in any group. There were no significant differences in systemic or regional uPA levels in the groups treated with EPC devices relative to those treated with heparin at any time point (P > .05, analysis of variance with repeated measures). Enhancement of fibrinolysis with EPC devices remains unproven; the findings reported here suggest that effective DVT prophylaxis can only be assured when the devices are used in a manner that reduces venous stasis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine