If you are prescribed compression stockings for a condition that affects your circulation, you may need to wear them for a few years, or in some cases, a lifetime.
What are elastic stockings for?
Compression stockings are specifically designed to apply pressure to the calf to help maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling.
If you have a medical condition that causes poor blood flow to your legs, such as:
- Varicose veins (swollen and enlarged veins)
lymphedema (when your body tissue swells)
wear compression stockings
Compression stockings come in a variety of sizes, lengths and colors. They also have different compressive strengths.
Your legs will be measured to determine what size stockings you need, and your GP or nurse will check that they fit.
You may want to wear them on both legs, or just 1 leg.
You should put your compression stockings on during the day and take them off before going to bed. Put them back on first thing in the morning.
You should get at least 2 pairs of stockings, or 2 pairs if you wear them on both legs.
This means you can wear one stocking (or pair) while the other is being washed and dried.
Hand wash stockings at about 40 degrees Celsius (a comfortable temperature for your hands) and keep them away from direct heat.
You should measure your legs again and change your stockings every 3 to 6 months.
How long should I wear compression stockings after surgery?
Your surgeon or other healthcare professional responsible for your care will advise you on how long to wear compression stockings after surgery and how to use them properly.
When wearing compression stockings after surgery, you should generally wear them as often as possible, day or night, until you are able to move around freely.
Compression stockings are used after surgery to prevent blood clots in the legs, called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
They are usually recommended if you may not be able to move much after surgery, possibly due to sequelae of surgery or other medical conditions that affect your mobility.
Who needs compression stockings after surgery?
When you are admitted to the hospital, your risk for DVT will be assessed to determine if you need compression stockings.
Even if you are able to leave the hospital on the day of surgery, you may need to wear stockings.
Your risk of developing DVT may increase if:
- You are having surgery on your hip, knee, leg or abdomen
- You need general anesthesia for more than 90 minutes
- Expect your mobility to be significantly reduced after surgery (if you have to stay in bed for a while, you won't be able to walk without assistance, or spend most of your time in a chair)
- Reduce the risk of DVT
Wearing compression stockings is one way to reduce your risk of DVT.
Making sure you drink enough fluids (check with your surgeon how much you should be drinking) and getting around as soon as possible after surgery can also reduce your risk.
In some cases, anticoagulant drugs may be prescribed to prevent blood clots.