Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is probably a greater risk now than ever before – but the signs are little-known, and preventative measures unproven. Health Tech learns more about RBR Legflow, and its role in helping to save lives against the ‘silent killer’ condition
After almost losing his life to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has come a determination in Paul Westerman to stop such an unnecessary event happening to others.
Having injured his knee while playing tennis and been given the all-too-common advice from his doctor to rest, Paul, unbeknown to him, was developing a pulmonary embolism. Two weeks later, his collapse at home led to him facing a battle for survival through the silent killer condition.
Through a lack of movement, deadly DVT can develop – and with the rise of home working, gaming and desk-based professions with people working long hours, the risk of DVT has probably never been greater.
“If you have a sore leg you’re told to rest, which if you have DVT is a death sentence, really,” says Paul, who developed PTSD after his near-death experience, which happened barely a week before he was due to marry.
“And with the amount of people currently taking little exercise, who are sedentary for more than 90 minutes at a time, DVT is a huge risk to so many people – but they most probably don’t know anything about it.
“The NHS say DVT is the number one cause of preventable deaths in hospitals, but what are we doing about it? We aren’t raising awareness so no-one knows the risk they’re at.
“DVT is nothing at all whatsoever to do with flying, even though many people associate it with that; it’s the lack of movement. And that’s the massive risk.
“After my own experience, I realised there must be something we can do about it – and I believe there is.”
That ‘something’ is the RBR Legflow, a device which increases blood flow to the lower limbs more than ten-fold, significantly reducing the risk of developing a DVT.
Having gained approval from the Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) following extensive trials, the device – created by Professor Richard Beasley, from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand – is being sold around the world, with all proceeds re-invested into DVT research and awareness.
With clients including a number of Premiership rugby clubs, who use the device to protect their players during their long periods of travel, the word is spreading.
Through business having started to actively market itself in early 2020, just as COVID-19 was sweeping across the world from the East, formal discussions with some of the business’ potentially biggest clients – global airlines – were paused “but dialogue is still ongoing,” adds Paul.
“There are other things out there, but are they fit for purpose? A report showed that NHS graduated stockings have no clinical or medical benefits whatsoever. And with flight socks, 85 per cent of the time they’re an incorrect fit, which actually decreases the blood circulation to the legs,” he says.
“And many of the other products on the market which claim to increase the blood flow to your legs aren’t based on clinical research, it’s just marketing research. They get around it by saying they ‘may’ help rather than it is proven to. With a deadly condition like this, people don’t want caveats, they want facts.”
Paul’s quest for facts led him to research DVT intently after his own experience in 2011, and became part of both the NICE committee on DVT and NCEPOD committee, which is where he met Professor Beasley.
“He showed me what he had created, this has been proven in clinical trials to increase blood flow to the legs over ten-fold. I’d done my research and had found all of these ‘solutions’ purporting to be all singing and all dancing, but here was something that was just what was needed,” says Paul.
“Clinical trials had shown what it can do and what it can prevent, but Professor Beasley being a clinician admitted he had let his device sit there and didn’t know what to do with it. He was happy for me to take it forward.”
With the efficacy of the RBR Legflow being confirmed by Dr Beverley Hunt, professor of thrombosis and haemostasis at King’s College London and and consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, who reviewed the clinical data, the product was formally launched in late 2019.
“This is a business, but it also isn’t – it’s not about how much money we can make for ourselves, everything goes back into research for more clinical trials, and we’re also keen to get a counselling service going,” says Paul.
“I developed PTSD and depression, and my wife-to-be saw me fall down seemingly dead, but there is nothing to help her. Very sadly, there are a lot of people who have lost loved ones, but there is no DVT-specific counselling support for them. We’d love to change that.
“Ultimately, the more we can shout about it and the signs of thrombosis, the more we can prevent – and that is our ambition.”
Warning signs of DVT in the leg:
- throbbing or cramping pain in the calf or thigh
- swelling in 1 leg (rarely both legs)
- warm skin around the painful area
- red or darkened skin around the painful area
- swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them
These symptoms also happen in your arm or stomach if that’s where the blood clot is.