Venous thromboembolism, encompassing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, affecting one in 1000 adults per year. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation is the transcutaneous application of electrical impulses to elicit muscle contraction, preventing venous stasis. This review aims to investigate the evidence underlying the use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation in thromboprophylaxis.Methods
The Medline and Embase databases were systematically searched, adhering to PRISMA guidelines, for articles relating to electrical stimulation and thromboprophylaxis. Articles were screened according to a priori inclusion and exclusion criteria.Results
The search strategy identified 10 randomised controlled trials, which were used in three separate meta-analyses: five trials compared neuromuscular electrical stimulation to control, favouring neuromuscular electrical stimulation (odds ratio of deep vein thrombosis 0.29, 95% confidence interval 0.13–0.65; P = .003); three trials compared neuromuscular electrical stimulation to heparin, favouring heparin (odds ratio of deep vein thrombosis 2.00, 95% confidence interval 1.13–3.52; P = .02); three trials compared neuromuscular electrical stimulation as an adjunct to heparin versus heparin only, demonstrating no significant difference (odds ratio of deep vein thrombosis 0.33, 95% confidence interval 0.10–1.14; P = .08).Conclusion
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation significantly reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis compared to no prophylaxis. It is inferior to heparin in preventing deep vein thrombosis and there is no evidence for its use as an adjunct to heparin.