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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 August 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Stockings to give elderly a lift
Foot in inflatable stocking
The stockings provide an alternative to physiotherapy
Researchers have developed inflatable stockings to give relief to elderly people with mobility problems.

The device could be used as an alternative to physiotherapy to treat patients with artery diseases.

A team at Imperial College London in Hammersmith, west London, carried out trials on 34 people with a condition which affects blood flow to the legs.

The stockings are wrapped around the leg and inflated three times a minute, squeezing blood out of the veins.

Consultant vascular surgeon Dr George Geroulakos led the research which focused on patients with a condition called intermittent claudication.

Sufferers have blocked arteries which limit blood flow to the legs and cause cramps and difficulties walking.

We are astounded by the effectiveness of this therapy which does not involve drugs and invasive procedures
Dr George Geroulakos

The participants were split into three groups, one used the stockings, another attended exercise sessions with a physiotherapist and the third followed an exercise regime alone.

Those using the stockings found they could walk up to two-and-a-half times as far, without the symptoms, after using the device for three hours a day for six months.

Dr Geroulakos described the results as "remarkable".

"We are astounded by the effectiveness of this therapy which does not involve drugs and invasive procedures, and can even be quite pleasant for the patient".

Dr Geroulakos said that currently intense physiotherapy is the best treatment for intermittent claudication but high costs have prevented widespread use.

He said that the stockings would provide "an attractive alternative, especially as the treatment can be carried out at home".

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