Graduated compression stockings for prevention of deep vein thrombosis

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Dec 17;(12):CD001484. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001484.pub3.


Background: One of the settings where deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the lower limb and pelvic veins occurs is in hospital with prolonged immobilisation of patients for various surgical and medical illnesses. Using graduated compression stockings (GCS) in these patients has been proposed to decrease the risk of DVT. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2000 and updated in 2010.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of graduated compression stockings in preventing DVT in various groups of hospitalised patients.

Search methods: For this update the Cochrane Peripheral Vascular Diseases Group Trials Search Co-ordinator searched the Specialised Register (last searched March 2014) and CENTRAL (2014, Issue 2).

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) involving GCS alone; or GCS used on a background of any other DVT prophylactic method. Results from both these groups of trials were combined in this update.

Data collection and analysis: For this update one review author (AS) extracted the data. These were cross-checked and authenticated by a second author (MJD). Two review authors (AS and MJD) assessed the quality of trials. Disagreements were resolved by discussion.

Main results: Nineteen RCTs were identified involving 1681 individual patients and 1064 individual legs (2745 analytic units). Of these 19 trials, nine included patients undergoing general surgery, six included patients undergoing orthopaedic surgery, and only one trial included medical patients. Graduated compression stockings were applied on the day before surgery or on the day of surgery and were worn up until discharge or until the patients were fully mobile. In the majority of the included studies DVT was identified by the radioactive I(125) uptake test. Overall, included studies were of good quality.In the treatment group (GCS) of 1391 units 126 developed DVT (9%) in comparison to the control group (without GCS) of 1354 units where 282 (21%) developed DVT. The Peto odds ratio (OR) was 0.33 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.26 to 0.41) with an overall effect favouring treatment with GCS (P < 0.00001).Based on results from eight included studies, the incidence of proximal DVT was 7 of 517 (1%) units in the treatment group and 28 of 518 (5%) units in the control group. The Peto OR was 0.26 (95% CI 0.13 to 0.53) with an overall effect favouring treatment with GCS (P = 0.0002). Based on results from five included studies, the incidence of PE was 5 of 283 (2%) participants in the treatment group and 14 of 286 (5%) in the control group. The Peto OR was 0.38 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.96) with an overall effect favouring treatment with GCS (P = 0.04). Limited data were available to accurately assess the incidence of adverse effects and complications with the use of GCS.

Authors' conclusions: GCS are effective in diminishing the risk of DVT in hospitalised patients, with strong evidence favouring their use in general and orthopaedic surgery. However, evidence for their effectiveness in medical patients is limited to one trial.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stockings, Compression*
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*