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“Tap and Twist”: Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis in Neuroscience Patients Through Foot and Ankle Range-of-Motion Exercises

Palamone, Janet; Brunovsky, Susan; Groth, Matt; Morris, Linda; Kwasny, Mary

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: December 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 6 - p 308–314
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e318234e9f2

ABSTRACT Neurosurgical patients tend to have the highest rate of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) rate among other postsurgical patients. The methods and timing of DVT prevention and treatment continue to be debated among neurointensivists. The greatest opportunity to intervene is early during the stay in the intensive care unit. There are many factors, however, that can make this the most neglected time for aggressive prevention measures. For large university teaching hospitals, the target of the University Health System Consortium is to achieve an average DVT rate at or below half that of previous reported rates. The current recommendations are effective only if there is compliance with these measures during the majority of the patients’ hospitalization. Our hypothesis states that without changing any of the current measures to prevent DVT, a structured program of foot and ankle range-of-motion (ROM) exercises will decrease the incidence of DVT in the neuroscience intensive care patient population. This quasi-experimental study was a quality improvement project examining 315 individuals over the age of 18 years, who were admitted to the neurospine intensive care unit and who received a new program of foot exercises as a method of DVT prevention. Data for the outcome measures were derived from bedside measurement of lower extremity doppler, the percentage of time the exercises were performed, patient history, and standard DVT prevention measures. Overall, there was no difference in DVT rates for those receiving the foot ROM intervention during the study period in 2008–2009 compared with the usual nursing practice for the previous year. However, during the study period, those who developed DVT had a significantly lower compliance rate with the ROM exercises (38.7%) than did those who did not develop DVT (58.4%; p < .001). Therefore, foot and ankle ROM exercises may have a promising role in reducing the incidence of DVT in neuroscience intensive care patients when there is diligent performance of the exercises.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Janet Palamone, MSN APN CCRN CNRN, at She is a practice manager at the NeuroSpine ICU at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL.

Susan Brunovsky, BSN CNRN CCRN, is a staff nurse at the NeuroSpine Intensive Care Unit, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL.

Matt Groth, BSN CCRN, is a staff nurse at the NeuroSpine Intensive Care Unit, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL.

Linda Morris, PhD APN CCNS FCCM, is an advance practice nurse for the Respiratory Care Department, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology with Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.

Mary Kwasny, ScN, is a statistician at the Department of Preventative Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2011 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses