Use of a digital step counter improved mobility in women at high risk for thromboembolic events after a cesarean delivery, based on data from a randomized trial of 215 patients.

“Patient immobility after surgery is associated with an increased risk of VTE [venous thromboembolism], whereas adequate mobility offers the benefits of enhanced bowel movement resumption and decreasing hospitalization length,” wrote Hadas Ganer Herman, MD, of Tel Aviv University, and colleagues.

In a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the researchers randomized 108 women to a personalized feedback program using pedometers to promote mobility after cesarean delivery; 107 served as controls. Patient demographics and intrapartum experiences, including age, body mass index, and gestation week at delivery, were similar between the groups, as were postpartum complications and the use of analgesics.

Patients who used the pedometers took significantly more steps, compared with controls (5,918 vs. 4,161, P < .001). In addition, women in the pedometer group reported improved physical and mental postpartum recovery and higher levels of satisfaction with their delivery experience, the researchers noted.

The study findings were limited by several factors including potential selection bias among patients who completed the full follow-up, as well as the effect of preset visits from the research team during the study and lack of blinding of the participants. In addition, data on thromboembolic events after hospital discharge were available only through patient phone calls, the researchers noted.

“Our trial is notable for its novelty in exploring an intervention to improve postcesarean delivery mobility, using an objective means of digital step counters,” and for focusing on high-risk patients of clinical interest, Dr. Herman and associates wrote.

Larger studies are needed to explore interventions to improve mobility after cesarean deliveries, they emphasized. However, “because the integration between technology and medicine has continued to evolve and has successfully been proven for additional patient care issues in obstetrics, the current trial offers a basis for interpretation, with the possible use of low-cost interventions such as smart phone applications in maternity wards and simple digital feedback.”

Dr. Martina L. Badell is an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics in the division of maternal-fetal medicine at Emory University in Atlanta.

Dr. Martina L. Badell

“VTEs are still among the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality with peak incidence in the immediate postpartum period,” Martina L. Badell, MD, of Emory University, Atlanta, said in an interview. “As the age and body mass index of our pregnant patients continues to increase, focused attention to prevent VTEs in high-risk populations is very important.”

Dr. Badell said that pedometers are a feasible strategy “provided there is funding available to pay for and provide them.” Pedometers “don’t cause pain/discomfort and can be easily worn and reused. If the hospital isn’t able to provide them, however, then cost could be a barrier to high-risk women using pedometers in the immediate postpartum period.”

“The take-home message is that wearing a pedometer is a simple, low-risk strategy to encourage increased ambulation in a high-risk postpartum population with good patient satisfaction,” Dr. Badell said. The next step for research in this area “is to determine how many steps during the immediate postpartum period is optimal to reduce not only VTE risk, but potentially other postoperative markers such as pain and infection,” she added. Another research question is whether “focused feedback-based pedometers during the prolonged postpartum period result in improved weight loss.”

The researchers had no relevant financial disclosures. Dr. Badell said she had no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Herman HG et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2020 May 7. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003879.