New treatment aimed at reducing dangers of leg fluid buildup

Wearing compression stockings can help prevent pooling of fluid in the legs. Pooling that can lead to – or worsen - serious health issues including blood clots and sleep apnea.

For those with spinal cord injuries and the elderly, compression stockings can be difficult to put on and remove and many people report discomfort while wearing them. To address this problem, Toronto Rehab Scientist Dr. Azadeh Yadollahi (in photo) explored a new therapy to prevent fluid buildup that uses electrical stimulation to make the calf muscles in the leg contract.

The results revealed that after 150 minutes of electrical stimulation, fluid buildup was reduced by 43%. Furthermore, swelling of the legs (measured as a change in calf circumference) was reduced by almost 90%.

“Our findings show that electrical stimulation of the calf is a promising strategy to prevent leg fluid accumulation. The improvements that we observed, when compared to previous studies, suggest that our approach has the potential to reduce the severity of sleep apnea by around a third,” said Dr. Yadollahi, an emerging investigator in the field of sleep and airway disorders.

Future work will focus on developing the approach into a compact and easy to use therapeutic device—one that could help a wide range of individuals affected by leg fluid buildup, including office workers, cashiers, flight attendants, frequent flyers, and those suffering from sleep apnea and spinal cord injuries.

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Toronto Rehab is home to the number one rehabilitation research centre in the world and is truly Where Incredible Happens. To ensure that the best proven rehabilitation research, technology and care are available to our patients and the community now and in the future, Toronto Rehab has launched a historic $100-million fundraising campaign. The campaign supports research in areas such as sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing slows or stops for minutes at a time during sleep. Learn more about the campaign