A Pilot study demonstrated that cooling inflamed skin affected by venous disorders significantly reduced blood flow after a four-week intense cryotherapy intervention. This new trial will assess the efficacy of this home-based cryotherapy intervention by adding sequenced tapered cooling after a 30-day intense cooling period. The goal is to reduce skin blood flow of chronically inflamed skin, decrease the incidence of venous leg ulcers and pain, and improve quality of life. A myriad of surgical, pharmacologic, and non-pharmacologic therapies such as compression bandages are often tried, many with limited success. More than 70% of patients with venous disorders such as insufficiency develop edema, skin damage, and ulcers. Ulcer prevention is warranted because of the significant socioeconomic implications in terms of lost workdays and wages, decreased productivity and increased health care costs. Clinicians focus on the multiple treatment approaches, often without consideration of how patients can contribute to their own self-care. Our 9-month intervention is based on principles of heat transfer and cryotherapy theories involving microcirculation. With input from a cryotherapy expert and participants who completed the R21 pilot, we propose a sequenced intervention strategy, where cooling will be dosed daily for 30 minutes for the first month, and then decreased to twice weekly dosing in months 2-3, once weekly in months 4-6, then PRN in months 7-9. We will measure blood flow, skin temperature, pain, quality of life, and the incidence of leg ulcers after months 1, 3, 6 and 9. Eligible participants will be randomized to treatment (low compression cooling wrap) or usual care (low compression non-cooling "sham" wrap). Participants in both groups will receive all study related materials including standardized instruction, skin thermometer, specially designed low compression wraps, leg elevator pillow, and compression stockings, and during an in-depth orientation session. We hypothesize that cryotherapy will enhance the largely ineffective non-pharmacologic self-care usual care model, that is, telling patients to wear compression stockings, elevate the legs, and get more exercise. These strategies are generally inadequate in achieving sustained change. Among our research methods we include rigorous process, impact and outcome monitoring. In an era of expectation for technological and pharmaceutical "fixes", this self-care strategy, if efficacious, could be an economical way to decrease morbidity and pain for thousands of patients, frequently viewed as non-responsive to self care. Prevention of ulcers is also a major potential source of saved medical dollars. This trial is significant due to the burden of venous disorders, the complex physical characteristics of the population including excessive obesity and co-morbidity and the need to reach patients with a feasible, motivational, and supportive strategy to promote self-care. The objective is to establish a new practice standard for prevention.

Public Health Relevance

This study tests whether an innovative low compression cool gel wrap (cryotherapy) applied to skin chronically inflamed by chronic venous disorders will reduce skin blood flow decrease skin temperature, and reduce the incidence of venous leg ulcers during the 9-month study period. Our sequenced intervention augments current clinical practices, and-more importantly-tests a highly feasible, low-cost strategy that could reduce pain and improve morbidity and quality of life for millions of individuals.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Research Project (R01)
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Nursing and Related Clinical Sciences Study Section (NRCS)
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Tully, Lois
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Medical University of South Carolina
Schools of Nursing
United States
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