What are IPC Devices for DVT Prevention?

Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices, otherwise known as IPC devices, are the latest generation of products designed to assist in preventing deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Blood clots may form in any individual from a variety of causes, such as:

  • traumatic injury
  • surgical procedures
  • dehydration
  • immobility especially following surgery or a chronic illness which places individuals in hospital beds or situations with very limited mobility.

What are IPC devices and how do they work?

Most deep vein thrombosis or blood clots appear deep in the blood vessels of lower extremities. Some clots break off and send pieces upward through vessels that serve the lungs, heart or brain. The clots often lodge in curves or bends of blood vessels leading into these organs.

Intermittent Pneumatic Devices work by mimicking the movement of blood in blood vessels. These devices have been shown to decrease the likelihood of DVT’s in the lower extremities.

IPC devices use cuffs placed around the lower legs that alternately fill with air, squeezing the muscles in the calf area. They then release the air, causing the cuff to deflate. This action is repeated as long as the cuffs are in place. Mimicking the natural flow of blood in the lower legs assists in pumping the blood back up to the main arteries and prevents slowing of blood and resulting pooling of blood in the calves and thighs.

The cuffs also improve function of valves in the legs that keep blood moving back to the heart. In some scenarios, lack of exercise, mobility, and age weaken these valves and prevents them from closing properly, which results in a ‘backwash’ of blood, contributing to pooling of blood vessels in the calf.

While most surgical patients are automatically placed with ICP devices after surgical procedures, some patients are fitted with these devices upon admission, even when not undergoing surgical procedures. Some risk factors in addition to those listed above include:

  • Advanced age, those over 65 years
  • Post-stroke patients
  • Bed-bound pregnant women or have other mobility risks
  • Those who have a propensity to bleed more easily, such as those already using blood thinners

As with any medical treatment plan or procedure, care must be taken to ensure skin integrity, such as checking the skin under the ICP devices during bathing or at least once a day. Heavy sweating or other factors that may impair skin conditions must be considered.

Alert your medical care provider if you have any questions or concerns about the use of ICP devices to ensure that you and your medical team understand the risks and benefits of these devices.

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