Wearing graduated compression stockings did not improve leg pain or swelling or the reduce the chance of developing a leg ulcer compared to placebo stockings. This was the finding from one small study, which means new studies may find different results.
People who already had a leg ulcer were excluded.
Understanding the problem
About 2 to 5 out of every 10 people who have a DVT in their leg will experience PTS.
PTS consists of one or more of the following signs and symptoms: leg discomfort, swelling, skin discolouration, or ulcers. It can range from mild (e.g., a little bit of swelling at the end of the day) to severe (e.g., chronic pain with severe swelling and ulcers that take months to heal). PTS is caused by damage to valves within the veins that are supposed to keep blood from pooling in the lower part of the leg. Pooling of blood increases pressure within the blood vessels, which causes fluid to leak into the skin.
Unfortunately, medications and surgery are not effective at treating PTS. The treatment most often used for PTS is a graduated compression stocking. Graduated compression stockings forces fluid back out of the tissues and improves blood flow upward toward the heart. Not everyone can wear graduated compression stockings. They can make skin problems worse in some people with poor circulation, and for others, they are too expensive or too uncomfortable.
The goal of this article was to report the results of a systematic review of studies assessing the risks and benefits of graduated compression stockings for treatment of PTS.
Only 1 study compared graduated compression stockings to placebo stockings or no treatment in studies published up to July 2018.
Who? The study included 35 people who had PTS one year after a DVT.
What? The study compared graduated compression stockings with placebo stockings.
Graduated compression stockings
Graduated compression stockings are custom-fitted stockings that cover the leg from the ankle to just below the knee or up to the mid- thigh. They provide pressure to the leg that is highest at the ankle (30 to 40 mmHg in this study) and decreases gradually to the top of the stocking.
Placebo stockings: stockings that look and feel like graduated compression stockings but are 1-2 sizes too large so they do not provide enough pressure to improve blood flow.
Graduated compression stockings vs placebo stockings in people who have PTS (average age 48 years; 60% female)
Outcomes at 2 years
Rate of events with Graduated Compression Stockings
Rate of events with Placebo Stockings
Number of studies and quality of the evidence
Treatment failure = leg pain or swelling that did not improve or worsened after 3 months OR could not go to work or perform housework for 5 days or more due to leg symptoms during a 3-month period OR developed a new leg ulcer
60 out of 100 people
60 out of 100 people
New leg ulcer
0 out of 100 people
0 out of 100 people
This Evidence Summary is based on the following article:
Azirar S, Appelen D, Prins MH, et al. Compression therapy for treating post-thrombotic syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Sep 18;9:CD004177. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004177.pub2. PubMed
Susanne Kahn, MD, MSc, FRCPC
Dr Susan Kahn is a clinician-scientist at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) and Professor of Medicine at McGill University. She founded and directs the JGH Centre of Excellence in Thrombosis and Anticoagulation Care. Nationally, she co-Directs the CanVECTOR Network, a CIHR-funded Canadian venous thromboembolism research network. She is an international research leader in venous thrombosis, has received numerous research grants and awards, and has more than 275 publications.
Lori-Ann Linkins, MD, MSc (Clin Epi), FRCPC
Dr. Linkins is an Associate Professor of Medicine (thrombosis) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. She holds a Masters Degree in Health Research Methodology and is a Deputy Editor with the Health Information Research Unit, McMaster. Her research interests include heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and cancer-associated thrombosis. She was editor of the ACCP Guidelines, 9th Edition HIT chapter and is currently a member of the ASH VTE Guidelines HIT Panel.
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Last Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2020