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Are Sequential Compression Devices Commonly Associated With In-Hospital Falls? A Myth-Busters Review Using the Patient Safety Net Database

Boelig, Matthew M. MD*; Streiff, Michael B. MD†; Hobson, Deborah B. BSN‡; Kraus, Peggy S. PharmD, CACP§; Pronovost, Peter J. MD, PhD‡∥; Haut, Elliott R. MD, FACS∥¶

Journal of Patient Safety:
doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3182110706
Original Articles

Objectives: Sequential compression devices (SCDs) help prevent deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in hospitalized patients; however, clinicians often decline to use this therapy because of a perceived increased risk for patient falls. There is limited information regarding the association between the use of SCDs and patient falls. In this study, we analyze if SCD use is a common risk factor for in-hospital falls.

Methods: We used the Patient Safety Net event reporting system at our university-affiliated hospital to retrospectively quantify reports of SCD-related falls over a nearly 5-year period (July 1, 2004, through May 25, 2009). The primary outcome was to determine how often SCD-related falls occurred in relation to SCD patient days. Secondary aims of this study included an assessment of the severity of SCD-related falls, as well as potential risk factors for such falls.

Results: Three thousand five hundred sixty-two total falls were reported during our study period, 16 of which (0.45%) were SCD-related falls. There were 0.063 SCD-related falls per 1000 SCD patient days or 1 fall for every 15,774 SCD patient days. The mean age of patients was 57.8 ± 14.4 years, 69% were male subjects, 81% were on a surgical ward, and 69% occurred while attempting to toilet. Only 2 of the SCD-related falls caused temporary harm that required intervention.

Conclusions: Sequential compression device use is rarely associated with in-hospital patient falls, and SCD-related falls are not more harmful than other types of falls.

Author Information

From the *Department of Surgery, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia; †Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; ‡The Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care, Johns Hopkins Medicine; §Department of Pharmacy, The Johns Hopkins Hospital; and ∥Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, and ¶Division of Acute Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Correspondence: Elliott R. Haut, MD, FACS, Division of Acute Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 625 Osler, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287 (e-mail:

Dr Haut is supported by a K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (1K08HS017952-01) from The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality entitled "Does Screening Variability Make DVT an Unreliable Quality Measure of Trauma Care?"

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.