Support stockings little help after stroke: study

Wed May 27, 2009 3:58pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Compression stockings widely prescribed to stroke patients do little or nothing to reduce the chance of a second blood clot, researchers reported on Wednesday.

They said guidelines recommending the use of thigh-length graduated support stockings should be changed right away.

"Compression stockings are used in the majority of stroke units," they wrote in the Lancet medical journal.

"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."

Martin Dennis of the University of Edinburgh in Britain and colleagues analyzed data on 2,518 patients from Britain, Italy, and Australia admitted to hospitals for strokes caused by blood clots.

About half wore the elastic stockings and half did not. All got ultrasounds of the legs.

About 10 percent of all the patients got a blood clot in the leg -- medically known as a deep vein thrombosis. Those who wore the stockings were no less likely to develop such a clot, Dennis's team reported.

But patients who wore the stockings were more likely to suffer cuts or abrasions, ulcers, blisters and dead skin.

About two-thirds of stroke patients are confined to bed and risk a second clot that goes to the brain, lungs or heart, but wearing the stockings will not protect them, the researchers said.

Dennis said 80,000 patients in Britain alone could be affected by the findings.

"Abandoning 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," he said. (Editing by Alan Elsner)