Sequential Compression Device

A sequential suppression device is used to prevent blood clots in the deep veins in your legs (deep vein thrombosis). Deep vein thromboses can form when the blood in your legs is not moving. This can happen when you are in bed for a long period after an operation or when you are on bed rest for a long time at home. Sometimes these clots break free and travel to your lungs where they can get stuck and block the flow of blood (pulmonary embolism). This is very dangerous. A sequential suppression device keeps your blood circulating through your legs like it normally does when you are walking.

 A sequential compression device is made up of an air pump and plastic leggings. The leggings wrap around your legs from your ankles to your knees or in some cases just your feet. They blow up (inflate) and then deflate, one at a time, when air is pumped into them. Each legging is inflated about every 30 seconds. This squeezes blood from the legs or feet up toward the heart. The squeezing creates a rapid flow of blood, which prevents clots from forming. The leggings can be taken off when you get up to move around.

 Sequential compression devices are used at different times:

  • During surgery.

  • While you are in bed after surgery.

  • While you are sitting in a chair.

They work best when you can also do foot exercises to help keep the blood moving through your legs. For these exercises, point your toes down and then point your toes up. Then repeat these motions.


Complications associated with the use of sequential compression devices are rare, but they can happen. Possible complications include:

  • Irritated skin. The leggings can make your skin warm and sweaty, causing irritated and sore skin.

  • Peroneal nerve injury. This is injury to the nerve that allows you to feel and move your lower legs, feet, and toes. Too much pressure from a sequential compression device may temporarily cause this nerve to stop working normally and create numbness or weakness of your ankle or both.

  • Compartment syndrome. This condition happens when blood cannot get to the muscles of the lower leg. When this happens, your leg muscles can be damaged. Too much pressure from a sequential compression device can cause this injury. However, this is very rare.


  • Do foot exercises as instructed by your caregiver to help keep blood circulating through your legs.

  • Walk as much as you can. After sitting or lying down for awhile, get up and walk for a bit.


  • One or both of your legs becomes warm, red, or swollen.

  • One or both of your legs begins to hurt a lot.

  • You have chest pain.

  • You have trouble breathing.