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Research on Compression Stockings to Prevent Blood Clots

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Recently, a reader asked:  Which compression stockings are better at preventing blood clots in the legs: thigh-highs or knee-highs?  Here’s what the research suggests … 

Compression stockings are typically prescribed to help prevent deep vein thrombosis -- blood clots in the legs -- after surgery or stroke when there is a high risk that blood clots will develop. These blood clots may travel to the lungs and obstruct blood flow, a condition known as pulmonary embolism. This condition can be fatal. 

Individuals who have had treatment that puts them at high risk for blood clots, such as hip or knee replacement surgery or stroke treatment, receive medication for several weeks to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Patients also wear compression stockings to improve circulation. 

For comfort and convenience, knee-high stockings are usually the go-to choice, but according to the trial Clots in Legs or sTockings after Stroke (CLOTS), the price of convenience may be less protection. 

Researchers randomly assigned more than 3,000 patients hospitalized for stroke to wear either knee-high or thigh-high stockings for at least 30 days. Patients received two ultrasounds to check for blood clots. Results showed that 2.5 percent fewer blood clots developed above the knee among patients wearing thigh-high stockings versus knee-high stockings, but skin problems were slightly more common in the thigh-high group. 

Note that these percentages are small and that other studies have questioned whether compression stockings -- knee-high or thigh-high -- have any real benefit at all. But if thigh-highs don't irritate your skin, they may be your safest bet to prevent blood clots. 

Posted in Healthy Living on January 25, 2012


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