Between treating DVT and reducing pain and swelling, cold and compression therapy are great for postsurgical recovery.
Deep vein thrombosis is not a new diagnosis. Blood clots following surgery is something that surgeons are aware of and have several ways to prevent. A blood clot is the product of blood coagulation, which is the body’s response to an injury to help prevent bleeding.
But, it can be harmful when clots obstruct blood flow through the veins. DVT happens when a clot forms within a deep vein, which can be fatal. However, prevention can range from additional medication all the way to compression devices and combinations of both treatment options.
What can be prescribed to treat DVT?
While a common and over-the-counter medication, Aspirin is often prescribed post-surgery to treat DVT. Orthopedic surgeons have long embraced this medication because it’s readily available and inexpensive. Conventionally, many believe this medication can also lower bleeding risk thus could lessen DVT risk.
However, surgeons debate on the effectiveness of this treatment. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, surgeons must use three treatment options to prevent pulmonary embolism including:
- Blood thinning wafer
- A pneumatic compression device
There are also theories around applying heat or ice for blood clot in leg and how this can be helpful for prevention.
What is pneumatic compression?
Pneumatic compression is a technique that includes a sleeve designed to inflate bottom to top, simulating ambulation. Inflation squeezes the calves increasing circulation. This motion keeps blood clots from forming.
Wearing compression sleeves after surgery are great for preventing DVT. But, the compression motion also stimulates healing and can help patients recover faster. This treatment is effective in reducing swelling and edema. Active compression moves intermittently from distal to proximal pushes that swelling and edema out of the injured site and to the body’s core so it can be disposed of through the lymphatic system. This type of compression also aids in enhancing the body’s blood flow, which helps deliver more oxygen to the injured area.
Learn more about compression sleeves here.
USING HEAT OR ICE FOR BLOOD CLOT IN LEG
In combination with pneumatic compression or medication, some suggest icing a blood clot. According to a study from PubMed, ice is commonly recommended as a treatment to decrease bleeding thus could be used to help dissolve blood clots. Essentially the cooling of blood in humans can impair coagulation or prolong bleeding. There are plenty of other benefits of utilizing cold therapy during surgical recovery such as aiding in pain and reducing inflammation.
However, this alone should not be used as a treatment option. But, could be utilized as a supplemental treatment.
How do you prevent DVT in a modern Surgery Center Setting?
Nearly 53% of orthopedic surgeries performed in ASCs or surgery centers are outpatient. With more than half of patients going home merely hours after a surgery, DVT prevention must be done at home. Companies such as Compression Solutions have designed compression units made for outside of a clinical setting. The Plasma Flow unit is tubeless and holds a 10 hour charge allowing a recovering patient to apply compression from anywhere. However, there are also portable units that allow for the combination of cold and compression treatments.
What happens when you combine cold & compression?
Studies have shown that people who use cold and compression therapy together as opposed to just one of those therapies alone recover from their injuries significantly faster. The many benefits of cold and compression therapy include reducing pain, swelling, and edema, while promoting faster healing, muscle recovery, and stimulating blood flow.
Cold and compression therapy can be applied to a variety of situations outside of DVT such as treating sprains, fractures, and tears.
When applying cryotherapy to DVT prevention, it will help reduce pain which is a great addition to post-surgical recovery. Cold therapy reduces pain, swelling, and edema, making your recovery faster and more comfortable. Doctors have recommended 20 minutes of cold therapy at a time, alternating between cold and warm or room temperature.
When using your Compression Solutions gel pack, it must freeze for two hours only icing an area for 20 minutes. After applying cold therapy, the gel pack should go back to the freezer. Studies find that when active compression is coupled with cold therapy, it results in increased blood flow, and decreased swelling, edema, and muscle spasms. Applying ice or cold to your injury also makes recovery less painful and uncomfortable.
Adding cold to compression treatment is great for patients recovering from a major surgery such as a total knee arthroplasty or total hip arthroplasty because it not only treats potential DVT, but it does help manage pain without adding another prescription to the recovery plan.
More benefits of cold therapy combined with compression.
These benefits of cold and compression therapy amount to a faster, and more pleasant recovery. Those suffering from minor joint pain or recovering from a major surgery can utilize this treatment. A patient can also benefit from cold and compression for muscle recovery after physical therapy sessions. Applying cold and compression to overworked, aching muscles will pump blood and oxygen through the area, and bring down swelling and fluids so patients can recover between sessions.
For more about cold and compression therapy click here.
UTILIZING HEAT OR ICE FOR BLOOD CLOT IN LEG
As mentioned previously, ice combined with compression therapy can be utilized to help prevent blood clots. However, there is room for heat in this discussion. How do you know when to utilize heat or ice for a blood clot?
Ice can aid during prevention, but when it comes to blood clots, heat can help dissolve. A Medline Plus study suggests keeping an area that is affected by a blood clot raised while applying moist heat.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF HEAT THERAPY
Heat therapy has recently received attention for aiding in impairment of muscle strength and fatigue. In other words, heat therapy directly after an injury, or surgery, can help accelerate recovery. One study supporting this theory comes from the National Library of Medicine.
However, physical therapists and athletic trainers seem to be divided when it comes to utilizing heat therapy. That being said, it’s safe to say we will be seeing an increase of discussion when it comes to cold therapy vs heat therapy for recovery.