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A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Exercise Intervention for the Treatment of Calf Muscle Pump Impairment in Individuals with Chronic Venous Insufficiency.

  • Orr, Lyndsay
  • Klement, Kathleen A
  • McCrossin, Laura
  • O'Sullivan Drombolis, Deirdre
  • Houghton, Pamela E
  • Spaulding, Sandi
  • Burke, Shauna
Published Article
Ostomy/wound management
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2017
PMID: 28873064


Exercise intervention for individuals with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and venous leg ulcers (VLUs) is recommended to improve function of the calf muscle pump (CMP). A systematic review with meta-analysis was conducted to measure the effects of exercise (including function of the CMP, ankle strength, range of motion [ROM], and healing rates) for VLUs. Four (4) databases (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Applied Health Literature, 1981; MEDLINE, 1964; Scopus, 1966; and EMBASE, 1947) were searched for relevant articles from the date of index inception to January 2016. All study types that evaluated the effect of exercise on the function of the CMP in patients with CVI were included; narrative and systematic studies were excluded. All data were extracted by 1 reviewer onto a predetermined form and verified by a second reviewer. Data extracted included number of patients, primary diagnosis, patient demographics, study location, wound characteristics, inclusion/exclusion criteria, exercise group details, control group details, co-interventions, primary outcome measures, secondary outcome measures, wound healing measures, blinding, intention to treat, and study design. A total of 1325 articles was screened; 14 met the inclusion criteria (total study participants = 519). CMP hemodynamics were assessed using air plethysmography measurement results from the included studies. A meta-analysis of 8 articles was distilled to 3 with relevant data (83 participants) that found a significant increase on CMP ejection fraction in favor of the exercise group (Hedge's g = 0.83; 95% CI 0.35-1.30, P <.001) compared to control. CMP residual venous fraction also favored the exercise group (Hedge's g = 0.42; 95% CI -0.03-0.862, P = .066). Ankle ROM was higher in the exercise group (116 participants; Hedge's g = 0.62; 95% CI -0.15-1.39, P = .116); however, these differences were not significantly different from controls. Exercise directed at improving calf muscle strength and ankle ROM for individuals with or at risk for VLUs improves CMP hemodynamics and function. Additional research using larger sample sizes to confirm the role of exercise in healing VLUs is warranted.

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