According to a Scottish research, the cheap inflatable leg wraps may save the lives of patients after a stroke.
The devices regularly squeeze the legs to keep blood flowing and prevent formation of fatal blood clots.
A trial with 2,876 patients, published in the Lancet, showed there were fewer clots with the wraps.
The UK’s Stroke Association said the results were “extremely encouraging” and had the potential to save thousands of lives.
A clot in the leg, a deep vein thrombosis, is normally associated with long flights, but is a problem for hospital patients unable to move.
Doctors at Western General Hospital and the University of Edinburgh said compression socks did not improve survival and clot-busting drugs led to other problems, including bleeding on the brain.
They tested the devices, which fit around the legs and fill with air every minute. They compress the legs and force the blood back to the heart.
They were worn for a month or until the patient recovered and was able to move again.
In the study, 8.5% of patients using the compression device developed blood clots, compared with 12.1% of patients who were treated normally.
According to a Scottish research, the cheap inflatable leg wraps may save the lives of patients after a stroke
Prof. Martin Dennis said: “At last we have a simple, safe and affordable treatment that reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis and even appears to reduce the risk of dying after a stroke.
“We estimate that this treatment could potentially help about 60,000 stroke patients each year in the UK.
“If this number were treated, we would prevent about 3,000 developing a deep vein thrombosis and perhaps save 1,500 lives.”
He said the system should also be tested in other immobile patients, such as those with pneumonia.
Prof. Tony Rudd, who chairs the Intercollegiate Stroke Guideline Group at the Royal College of Physicians, said: “This study is a major breakthrough showing how a simple and safe treatment can save lives.
“It is one of the most important research studies to emerge from the field of stroke in recent years.”
Dr. Dale Webb, of the Stroke Association charity, said: “The results of this research are extremely encouraging and show that using a compression device on the legs of patients at risk of developing blood clots could be a more effective treatment.
“This new device has the potential to save thousands of lives and we would like to see it incorporated into national clinical guidelines.”
Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may cut their risk of heart problems, a study suggests, but experts are still cautious about long-term safety risks.
Published in the journal BMJ, the study also found HRT is not associated with an increased risk of cancer or stroke – but past studies have shown a link.
The Department of Health advises women to only use it on a short-term basis.
The researchers traced 1,000 women over 10 years – half of them were on HRT.
Talking about their findings, the paper’s authors said: “HRT had significantly reduced risk of mortality, heart failure, or heart attack, without any apparent increase of cancer, deep vein thrombosis or stroke.”
However, they stressed that “due to the potential time lag, longer time may be necessary to take more definite conclusions”.
Safety concerns about the long-term use of the therapy has been debated by academics over the past decade.
The women in the study were aged between 45-58 years old and recently menopausal – those on treatment started it soon after menopausal symptoms began.
HRT replaces female hormones that are no longer produced during the menopause and can help with hot flushes, insomnia, headaches and irritability.
After 10 years, 33 women in the group that had not taken HRT had died or suffered from heart failure or a heart attack, compared with just 16 women who were taking the treatment.
Thirty-six women in the HRT group were treated for cancer compared to 39 who had not taken HRT – of which 17 cases were breast cancer compared to 10 in the HRT group.
They also found that after stopping the therapy, the women continued to see health benefits for six years.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said: “This is a very significant piece of research and should reassure the millions of women who turn to hormone therapy for relief of their menopausal symptoms.
“Although the study was not large, the long-term follow-up of 16 years is reassuring as there was no increase in adverse events including cancer.
“This should not be considered the last word on the effects of hormone therapy. More research is needed.”
A series of previous studies has linked HRT with a higher risk of breast cancer and heart attack.
A large study which initiated the discussion and looked at a million women, suggested taking it for several years doubled a women’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Weighing up the evidence from numerous past studies, some experts warn that this new BMJ study does not mean that HRT can now be considered safe.