Reduced calf muscle pump function is a risk factor for venous thromboembolism: a population-based cohort study

Damon E. Houghton, Aneel Ashrani, David Liedl, Ramila A. Mehta, David O. Hodge, Thom Rooke, Paul Wennberg, Waldemar Wysokinski, Robert McBane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The calf muscle pump is a major determinate of venous return in the legs but has not been studied as a risk factor for venous thromboembolism (VTE). A population-based cohort study of Olmsted County, Minnesota residents was performed using calf pump function (CPF) measurements from venous plethysmography studies from 1998 to 2015. Patients with a history of VTE were excluded. Nursing validated VTE outcomes from the Rochester Epidemiology Project were identified after the index study date, and patients with reduced CPF (rCPF) were compared with patients with normal CPF. A total of 1532 patients with recorded CPF (28% air and 72% strain gauge plethysmography) were included; 591 (38.5%) had normal CPF, 353 (23.0%) had unilateral rCPF, and 588 (38.3%) had bilateral rCPF. Any VTE occurred in 87 patients (5.7%) after a median follow-up of 11.7 years (range, 0-22.0 years). Comparing patients with bilateral reduced to bilateral normal CPF, the unadjusted hazard ratio (HR) for incident VTE was 2.0 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2-3.4) and after adjusting for age, BMI, and Charlson Comorbidity Index, the HR was 1.68 (95% CI, 0.98-2.89). The adjusted HR for ipsilateral deep vein thrombosis was evaluated in 3064 legs comparing legs with reduced to normal CPF and was 1.71 (95% CI, 1.03-2.84). Mortality was significantly higher in both the bilateral (P <.001) and unilateral (P <.001) rCPF groups compared with normal CPF. Our results demonstrate that CPF is a risk factor for VTE in an otherwise low-risk ambulatory population and might be a useful component in risk stratification models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3284-3290
Number of pages7
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 10 2021


  • COAGULATION/Thrombotic Disorders and Therapies
  • calf pump function
  • deep vein thrombosis
  • venous thromboembolism
  • venous thrombosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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