Hospital patients can develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs and pelvic veins immediately after surgery or if they are not mobile because of a medical illness. Symptoms vary from none to pain and swelling in the legs. A blood clot can move from the leg to the lungs with the danger of pulmonary embolism and death. Usually the DVT clears up or has long term effects such as high venous pressure in the leg, leg pain, swelling, darkening of the skin or inflammation.
DVT can be prevented using compression or drugs but drugs may cause bleeding, which is a particular concern in surgical patients. Graduated elastic compression stockings help prevent blood clots forming in the legs by applying varying amounts of pressure to different parts of the leg. Our review confirmed that graduated compression stockings reduce the risk of DVT in hospitalised patients. Our findings also suggest that wearing elastic stockings as well as receiving another method of prophylaxis has increased benefit. We identified 18 randomised controlled trials, eight comparing wearing stockings to no stockings and 10 comparing stockings plus another method with that method alone in patients undergoing surgery. The other methods used were Dextran 70, aspirin, heparin and mechanical sequential compression.