Current prehospital recommendations for an acute closed extremity joint injury (ACEJI) are to apply compression in some manner. However, the effectiveness of compression is unclear. We performed a systematic review to summarize and synthesize the evidence for the use of a compression bandage for ACEJI in the prehospital setting.
Cochrane Library, PubMed, and Embase were searched for relevant literature in November 2019.
Controlled trials involving adults in the prehospital setting with a recent ACEJI were included when compressive, nonimmobilizing interventions, feasible in a first aid setting, were applied and compared with no compression or any noncompressive intervention, such as braces, splints, or noncompressive stockings. Articles in all languages were included if an English abstract was available.
Data on study design, study population, intervention, outcome measures, and methodologic quality were extracted from each included article.
Eight studies out of 1193 possibly relevant articles were included. All authors examined compression in the treatment of acute ankle sprains; no studies involved compression for the treatment of other ACEJIs. No difference in the major outcomes of pain reduction or swelling, ankle-joint function, or range of motion could be demonstrated. For the outcome of recovery time, no benefit was shown when comparing compression with no compression. Evidence was insufficient to inform a conclusion about the outcomes of time to return to work or sport. All evidence was of low to very low quality.
The evidence for the use of a compression wrap was limited to patients with closed ankle injuries. In this systematic review, we could not demonstrate either a beneficial or harmful effect from the application of a compression or elastic bandage compared with no compression or a noncompressive stocking, splint, or brace as a first aid treatment in the prehospital environment.