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Wearing elastic compression stockings reduces complications after a blood clot in the leg


One of every three to four people with deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot) in the leg develops complications. These complications range from swelling, skin discoloration and numbness, to chronic pain, hardening of the skin, and leg sores.
A new study finds that wearing below-the-knee elastic compression stockings every day reduces chances of developing DVT complications for up to two years. The study is published in the August 17, 2004, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Elastic compression stockings exert graduated pressure on the lower leg. They can be purchased in medical supply stores for $30 to $50.

In the new study, researchers in Padua, Italy, studied 180 patients diagnosed with a first episode of DVT. One group was assigned to wear below-knee graded compression elastic stockings every day; a control group did not wear the stockings. All patients also received appropriate anticoagulant care for DVT.

At the end of two years, patients who wore the compression stockings had developed fewer complications. The overall incidence of complications was reduced from 49 percent to 26 percent and the incidence of severe complications was reduced from 12 percent to 3.5 percent.

Said another way, at the end of two years, only 25 percent of patients who wore the stockings had developed post-blood clot complications compared with 49 percent of those who did not wear stockings.

"This study suggests that stocking therapy be routine after a deep-vein blood clot," said Jeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD, FRCPC, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who wrote an editorial accompanying the article in Annals of Internal Medicine.

"The stockings are sometimes hard to get on; some find them unattractive, and, if the patient has only mild ankle swelling at the end of the day, frequently elevating the legs or avoiding long bouts of standing or sitting might be enough to reduce the symptoms," Dr. Ginsberg said.

"Still, elastic compression stockings, are a relatively inexpensive, noninvasive way to reduce risk of complications from DVT, and physicians and patients should consider them," Dr. Ginsberg said.

The study did not explain how the stockings work to reduce risk of the post-blood clot complications. Also, the stockings did not reduce repeat episodes of DVT but did reduce development of complications after a blood clot.

Susan Anderson | EurekAlert!
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