In the field of healthcare, numerous methods and devices are utilized to aid in patient management and recovery. One such beneficial device that finds extensive use in a variety of settings is the Sequential Compression Device machine, commonly known as an SCD machine. As esteemed healthcare providers, it's imperative to stay informed about this device not only for your professional growth but also for the well-being and recovery of your patients.

The main purpose of this post is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of when and why an SCD machine should be recommended. We will delve into its functioning, its role in the prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), the suitable candidates for its use, and the dangers associated with its usage if it's incorrectly applied. Let's deepen our professional knowledge about this invaluable tool and enhance our ability to make informed decisions for our patients' welfare.

Understanding SCD Machines

A Sequential Compression Device (SCD) machine is a medical device designed to aid in the prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It functions by intermittently compressing the lower limbs, which mimics the natural muscle contractions that occur during movement. This compression helps stimulate blood flow, thereby reducing the blood's stagnation in the veins which could potentially lead to clot formation and DVT.

The SCD machine typically consists of a pump and inflatable sleeves that wrap around the patient's legs. The pump is programmed to inflate and deflate the sleeves at regular intervals, creating a gentle squeezing effect. This "sequential" compression, starting from the lower part of the leg and moving upwards, enhances venous blood return to the heart, improving overall circulation.

In addition to enhancing blood flow, the use of an SCD machine can also help alleviate pain and swelling in the legs associated with immobility or other medical conditions. These factors combined make the SCD an invaluable tool in a healthcare provider's arsenal to counter the risks of immobility and venous thromboembolism.

The Importance of SCD Machines

The significant role that SCD machines play in patient management cannot be overstated. With statistics revealing that as many as 10-30% of patients will die within one month of DVT diagnosis and sudden death being the initial symptom in approximately 25% of people who have a PE (Pulmonary Embolism), the numbers are an alarming testimony to the dire consequences of these venous thrombo-embolic events. Therefore, preventive measures, such as the use of SCD machines, hold immense significance.

SCD machines work towards minimizing these risks. By promoting venous blood return, they aid in reducing blood stagnation in the deep veins, thus lowering the risk of DVT formation. They play a crucial role in post-operative management, providing a mechanical means of DVT prophylaxis for patients who may have contraindications to pharmacological methods, or in conjunction with them, for a multipronged approach.

There is also a substantive clinical value of SCD machines beyond prevention of DVTs. For healthcare providers managing patients with chronic venous insufficiency or lymphedema, the SCD machine can help reduce swelling and lessen discomfort associated with these conditions, greatly improving the quality of the patient's life.

Understandably, while prophylactic anticoagulation continues to be a cornerstone in DVT prevention, the standalone utility of SCD machines and their value as part of a diversified prevention approach is considerable. This highlights the importance of incorporating SCD machines as part of individualized patient management strategies.

Indications for SCD Machine Use

Determining when to use an SCD machine is a crucial component of patient management. While it's a valuable tool, the decision of its applicability must be based on individual patient assessment. Here are some general scenarios where SCD machine use is typically recommended:

Patients who could benefit from SCD machines include:

  1. Surgical Patients: Particularly those undergoing elective hip or knee arthroplasty, abdominal surgery, neurosurgery, or other major operations, as these individuals are at significant risk for postoperative DVT.
  2. Prolonged Bed Rest: Patients with reduced mobility due to hospitalization, critical illness, or disability could greatly benefit from the use of SCD machines by improving venous return and reducing the risk of clot formation.
  3. Obesity: Overweight individuals tend to have higher chances of developing blood clots, and the use of SCD machines can help minimize this risk.
  4. History of DVT or PE: Patients with a past record of such events are often at a higher risk of repeated incidents. An SCD machine could serve as a prophylactic measure.
  5. Trauma or Orthopedic Injuries: Individuals with injuries that restrict mobility can benefit from an SCD machine.

Despite these general indicators, it's essential that healthcare providers carefully consider each patient's overall health status and individual risk factors before recommending SCD machine use. It's important to realize that while SCD machines can aid remarkably in patient management, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Regular evaluation of the patient’s condition is vital to adjust the measures as necessary.

Contraindications for SCD Machine Use

While SCD machines are incredibly beneficial in many cases, there are certain situations where their use is not recommended. Thus, understanding the contraindications for SCD machine use is equally crucial for effective patient management. SCD machines may be ill-advised in the following scenarios:

  1. Severe Peripheral Artery Disease or Gangrene: The compression caused by the SCD machine can detrimentally restrict already compromised arterial circulation.
  2. Recent Skin Graft: SCD usage may disrupt the healing process of a recent skin graft in the applied area due to the compression.
  3. Patients with Unstable Fractures or severe Soft Tissue Injury: The pressure from the SCD machine could cause pain or potentially exacerbate the existing injury.
  4. Deep Vein Thrombosis or Pulmonary Embolism: SCD machines should not be used if these conditions are already present as they may mobilize the clot, leading to serious complications.

Potential risks and complications associated with SCD machines, although infrequent, can include skin irritation, ulceration, and discomfort. Rarely, nerve damage and compartment syndrome can occur due to excessive pressure. Therefore, frequent monitoring and prompt adjustment is crucial. 

In all instances, it is fundamental that healthcare providers weigh the potential risks and benefits of SCD use in the context of the individual patient's clinical situation to make an informed decision.

Empirical Evidences and Studies

Multiple research studies affirm the efficacy of SCD machines in preventing DVT and PE incidents among high-risk patients. A look at these empirical evidences will further clarify the role of SCD machines in patient management.

  1. A research study published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery showed that SCD machines significantly reduced the incidence of DVT in recovering surgical patients by 60% (Comerota AJ et al. 1994).
  2. Another clinical trial in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that mechanical compression provided by SCD machines could parallel the effects of medicinal prophylaxis like heparin in reducing postoperative venous thrombosis (Nicholson P et al. 1997.)
  3. SCD machines have also been found to significantly reduce the risk of DVT in stroke patients, as reported in a Cochrane review (Dennis M et al. 2013).

These studies, along with observations in clinical practice, affirm the relevance of SCD machines in patient management. Presently, the consensus among healthcare professionals indicates that SCD machines serve as an effective preventive strategy against venous thromboembolism, particularly when combined with other preventive measures. 

However, research in this area continues, and as healthcare providers, it's crucial to keep abreast of new studies and evaluations to ensure the most optimal patient care based on the most current and evidence-based information.

How to Use the SCD Machine

Applying an SCD machine correctly is imperative for it to be effective. Here is a general guide for healthcare providers on how to use an SCD machine:

  1. Begin by measuring the patient's leg to ensure that the correct size of the compression sleeve is used. An inappropriately sized sleeve can either compromise the machine's efficacy or cause discomfort.
  2. Make sure the patient is comfortably positioned with their legs uncrossed before application.
  3. Secure the sleeve around the patient's leg, ensuring it's smooth and wrinkle-free.
  4. Connect the sleeves to the SCD machine.
  5. Set the prescribed pressure and inflation cycle based on the manufacturer's instruction and patient's condition.

Tips for optimizing the use of SCD machines:

  • Encourage the patient to keep the SCD machine on as much as possible to maximize effectiveness. Discuss with the patient the importance of regular use.
  • Pay attention to the patient's comfort. If the patient is experiencing pain or discomfort, reassess the sleeve fit and machine settings.
  • Regularly check the patient's skin underneath the sleeve for any changes or signs of complications such as redness, blisters, or skin changes.

Remember, SCD machines are a great tool when used effectively and safely. Always ensure that the SCD is used in conjunction with other prescribed thromboprophylaxis measures to ensure comprehensive patient care.


As healthcare providers, we constantly strive to offer our patients efficient and comprehensive care. In this pursuit, understanding and implementing preventive measures like using an SCD machine is crucial. Its role in DVT prevention, pain alleviation, and promoting patient well-being is significant.

However, keep in mind that each patient's care needs are unique. As outlined in this post, SCD machines, while highly beneficial, are not suitable for everyone. Thoroughly assess the patient's overall status, risks, and benefits to make an informed decision about recommending the use of an SCD machine. A well-rounded, integrated approach is the hallmark of effective patient management.

We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights on when an SCD machine might be recommended in patient care. Let's continue to stay informed and educated to provide the best possible care for our patients.


  1. Comerota AJ, Chouhan V, Harada RN, Sun L, Hosking J, Veermansunemi R et al. (1994). The fibrinolytic effects of intermittent pneumatic compression: mechanism of enhanced fibrinolysis. Ann Surg. 220(4): 461–469.
  2. Nicholson P, Kakkar VV. (1997). The Role of Mechanical Prophylaxis in Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism. New England Journal of Medicine. 337:642-648.
  3. Dennis M, Sandercock G, Reid J, Graham C, Murray G, Venables G, Rudd A, Bowler G. (2013). Effectiveness of intermittent pneumatic compression in reduction of risk of deep vein thrombosis in patients who have had a stroke (CLOTS 3): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 382(9891):516–524.
  4. American College of Chest Physicians. Guidelines for the Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism. 9th Edition. Clinical Practice Guidelines: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis.


The information provided in this article is intended solely for the purpose of education and must not be construed as medical advice. While every effort is made to provide accurate and current information, the medcom group®, ltd. makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy. Medical treatment and guidelines may subject to change over time, hence healthcare professionals should use their discretion and professional judgment in application.

The medcom group®, ltd. will not be held liable for any damage or loss arising from the use of the information provided in this article. For any major medical decisions, healthcare providers must always consult with a medical practitioner or relevant experts to ensure the safety and well-being of their patients.