Pilot study evaluating the efficacy of exergaming for the prevention of deep venous thrombosis.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

Current prophylactic protocols fail to prevent deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in a significant minority of patients, and it remains one of the leading causes of preventable death. We therefore quantified the efficacy of novel game-based exercises (exergaming) to augment femoral venous parameters relative to ankle movement and muscle flexion.

METHODS

Healthy volunteers were recruited to perform a series of ankle and foot exercises using a wireless foot sensor (LEGSys; BioSensics LLC, Watertown, Mass) to navigate a computer cursor sequentially on a screen to the center of 200 circular targets. A single ultrasound technician (W.A.M.) measured each patient's mean flow volume, peak flow velocity, mean flow velocity, and cross-sectional area of the right femoral vein at baseline and obtained immediate postexercise (PEX), 5-minute PEX, and 15-minute PEX measurements. Electromyography (EMG) was performed at baseline and during the exercise. Baseline demographics and medical and surgical comorbidities were also recorded. The primary end point was the difference between baseline and immediate PEX mean flow volume estimates. We secondarily explored the association of baseline characteristics and EMG measurements with femoral vein parameters.

RESULTS

Fifteen healthy subjects (53% male; 28.1 ± 4.6 years) completed the exergaming task within a mean of 4 minutes, 2 ± 21 seconds. Immediately after exercise, the femoral vein mean flow volume, mean velocity, and peak systolic velocity increased by 49%, 53%, and 48%, respectively (P < .02 for each). Mean flow volume and velocity remained significantly elevated 5 minutes after exercise (P < .04 for each). Plantar flexion and dorsiflexion velocities and EMG frequency and intensity were not significantly correlated with PEX mean flow volume estimates (P > .05). Subgroup analysis revealed that women (P < .01) and Hispanics (P < .01) exhibited significantly slower PEX responses. Subjects with the largest improvements in mean flow volume had lower peak plantar flexion velocities (P < .01).

CONCLUSIONS

Exergaming increases mean flow volume, mean flow velocity, and peak systolic velocity within the femoral vein by approximately 50% above baseline. Exergaming represents a novel and potentially attractive method of DVT prevention by augmenting femoral vein mean volume flow and capitalizing on biofeedback. Less forceful but more uniform contractions were found to be most effective at augmenting venous blood flow. Exergaming will require further validation in larger study bases, among patients at higher risk of DVT.

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