Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How compression can help-- and help prevent-- DVT

In addition to managing both acute and chronic DVT, compression can be a tool for prevention. When there are risk factors for DVT, such as long distance car or plane travel, immobility, or pregnancy, wearing compression stockings can reduce its occurrence. 

What do we mean by compression? Graduated compression stockings provide a gradient of pressure against the leg. The pressure is highest at the foot and ankle and gradually decreases as the garment rises up the leg. This pressure gradient makes it easier for the body to pump blood up towards the heart (the normal direction) and more difficult for gravity to pull blood downward.

Compression stockings require a prescription and can be purchased at many pharmacies, most major medical supply stores, and specialty stores. Your doctor can tell you if you need knee-highs, thigh-highs, or a “pantyhose” style. 

These days, compression stockings are fashionable, comfortable, and come in a wide variety of styles and colors. Though modern compression stockings usually look like socks or tights, putting them on can be a challenge. 

It’s important to note that “TED hose”— the “anti-embolic" stockings that are often worn after surgery to help prevent DVT— are not the same as graduated compression stockings. TED hose work well for patients who are bed bound, but won’t offer much benefit to patients who are up and walking.

There are many benefits to using graduated compression therapy besides reduced risk factors for DVT, but be sure to consult your physician first. Compression is not appropriate for all patients and can actually have adverse affects on patients with peripheral arterial disease.

To learn more about DVT, read our previous posts.

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