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Compression Stockings Offer Little Benefit After Stroke

Risk of blood clots not affected by their use, new research shows

WEDNESDAY, May 27, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Compression stockings don't reduce the risk of blood clots in stroke patients, according to a study that urges revision of guidelines on the use of the support hose.

The study included 2,518 immobile patients in Europe and Australia who were admitted to hospital within one week of experiencing an acute stroke. Some patients received routine care plus thigh-length graduated compression stockings, while other received routine care only.

Ultrasounds of the patients' legs were performed between seven and 10 days and at 25 to 30 days after they were enrolled in the study. The researchers were checking for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can break up and get carried through the bloodstream to the heart and lungs, which is a potentially life-threatening problem.

DVT occurred in 10 percent of patients in the compression stockings group and in 10.5 percent of those in the routine care group. The study also found that skin breaks, ulcers, blisters, and skin tissue death occurred in 5 percent of the compression stockings patients and in 1 percent of patients who received routine care without compression stockings.

The study appears online May 27 and in an upcoming print issue of The Lancet.

"Compression stockings are used in the majority of stroke units. In this study, we have shown conclusively that compression stockings do not work for stroke patients. National guidelines need to be revised and we need further research to establish effective treatments in this important group of patients," study author Martin Dennis, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said in a news release.

In the study, Dennis and his colleagues said that stopping use of "this ineffective and sometimes uncomfortable treatment will free up significant health resources -- both funding and nurse time -- which might be better used to help stroke patients."

More information

The Society for Vascular Surgery has more about deep vein thrombosis.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, May 27, 2009
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