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Compression Stockings Fit Matters for Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

According to a study conducted by Dr. Lisa Macintyre and a team based at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University School of Textile and Design, compression stockings that do not fit patients will fail to stop deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

In the study, Dr. Macintyre and her team noted that the majority of people evaluated believed that deep vein thrombosis is caused by long-haul travel. Deep vein thrombosis, when left untreated, can cause blood clots to travel to the lungs, leading to pulmonary embolism (PE). Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition wherein a blockage, which can come from anywhere in the body, is found in one of the main arteries of the lungs. 

Hospitalized and bed-ridden patients are encouraged to wear compression stockings to prevent vein disorders, such as deep vein thrombosis, which may lead to serious complications. Compression stockings support the legs and help promote blood flow. However, according to a 2005 report by the House of Commons Health Committee, there are around 25,000 to 32,000 deaths caused by pulmonary embolism among patients who were hospitalized and had deep vein thrombosis in United Kingdom.

Such a number of deaths caused by pulmonary embolism led Dr. Macintyre and researchers from Heriot Watt University School of Textile and Design to study the efficiency of compression stockings in preventing pulmonary embolism. Dr. Macintyre, together with her team, looked into the different sizes and styles of compression stockings manufactured by four companies in the United Kingdom.

The team was able to find out that one brand had various sizes that can fit well on the legs of their volunteers. However, one brand had sizes that did not fit any of their volunteers’ legs. They were able to conclude that the brand that did not have the right fit for their volunteers had few measurement points, making the compression stockings inefficient. The team further found out those compression stockings that claim to have “open-ended sizes” and promise consumers their products can fit any size, were the most inefficient anti-embolism stockings in the market.

Dr. Brian Magowan, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Borders General Hospital, said that compression stockings really do help prevent deep vein thrombosis among patients who underwent surgery and have to be bed-bound.  However, he also said that compression stockings should be used in caution. He said that compression stockings should be the right size and must have the right pressure on the legs.

Dr. Magowan pointed out that compression stockings that are too tight can cause and worsen deep vein thrombosis; while compression stockings that are too loose will only be removed by patients because of discomfort, and will not prevent deep vein thrombosis at all.

Dr. Macintyre iterated that it is important that compression stockings fit well on the patient’s legs; otherwise, using such anti-embolism stockings will be useless. She further added that using the wrong stockings can even promote and worsen deep vein thrombosis which can lead to pulmonary embolism and even death.

Read more on DoctorQA to learn more about compression stockings.

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