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INTRODUCTION: Venous thromboembolism (VTE) represents a major cause of morbidity and mortality. A variety of novel physical therapies have been proposed for patients in whom standard prophylaxis, including early mobilisation, is contraindicated. This article presents a systematic literature review of alternative physical treatments for VTE prophylaxis, focusing on surgical and trauma patients. METHODS: Following protocol registration in PROSPERO, a systematic review was conducted in accordance with PRISMA. MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched for all studies indexed before 27th of July 2019. Two authors independently screened these articles. Data gathering for eligible articles was also undertaken in parallel by two authors. A formal risk of bias assessment was conducted for each study along with an assessment on the quality of the evidence using the GRADE framework. RESULTS: A total of 272 abstracts were identified. After exclusion of duplicates and non-eligible articles, 10 publications were reviewed in detail. Two studies involving electrostimulation, another using a portable intermittent compression device and one study using postoperative calf massage reported a statistically significant reduction in the incidence of deep venous thrombosis when used in conjunction with LMWH. The remaining six articles did not show any significant benefits. DISCUSSION: All studies reporting significant benefits have methodological flaws, with a high risk of bias. The evidence base informing alternative physical treatments as prophylactic measures in VTE is limited. Our data suggest that the use of these physical modalities can be beneficial in patients who also received LMWH, whilst these alone are of no benefit. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II - Systematic Review Systematic Review Registration Number PROSPERO CRD42019133684.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





73 - 79


Physical therapy, Prophylaxis, Thrombosis