Should You Wear Compression Socks After Surgery? Answering all Questions
August 30 2022
Yes, there are many benefits tied to the use of compression socks after surgery. In fact, compression socks are recommended as a post-surgery care option for legs, hips, or knee operations since there's an increased risk of DVT. Many doctors even suggest them being a critical part of the healing process. How? Read the reasons why doctors recommend compression socks and who actually needs them!
Who Needs Compression Socks After Surgery?
A doctor may recommend wearing compression socks if you undergo surgery affecting the lower leg. It helps boost your recovery and reduces swelling to protect you against DVT. According to NHS, your risk of developing DVT increases if:
- You are under general anaesthesia for more than 90 minutes
- You have surgery on your knees, abdomen, hips, or legs
- You are expected to stay in bed for longer, can't walk without help, or spend more time sitting
Whether you can develop DVT or not is assessed after surgery, and if you have a high chance, you may be required to wear compression stockings. You may have to wear them even after you leave the hospital on the same day of the operation. Doctors recommend these garments because there are several benefits. Let's explore all the advantages it provides.
Benefits of Compression Socks Post Surgery
Before we go further, you need to remember that no matter how beneficial compression stockings are, you should wear them after surgery only if your doctor recommends it. With that being said, let's look at the benefits they provide:
Swelling post-surgery is common, but extreme swelling is a subject of concern. It can affect your recovery process and end up complicating things.
Wearing compression socks can prevent swelling since they are tight-fitting woven fabrics that do not allow your skin to expand. When your skin cannot expand from a certain point, the fluid dissipates and decreases build-up in one area. For best results, your doctor may recommend you to wear compression socks when swelling is at its peak, for example, in the morning when you wake up. However, depending on your condition, some may recommend wearing it to sleep. So, follow whatever your doctor says since every individual is different with different needs.
Improves Blood Circulation
Post-surgery, you are always recommended not to do strenuous physical activities and even have to lie in bed more often. But restricted physical movements and increased lying time lead to bad blood circulation and a risk of blood clots. And to heal completely after surgery, your body needs proper circulation.
Compression socks are used in this situation to maintain a healthy blood flow rhythm in your body and prevent blood clots from complicating your healing process.
Lowers Risk of DVT
DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, is a medical condition that causes blood clots in the veins located deep in your body, mainly in your legs. If this clot travels through your veins and imbeds in your lungs, it can block blood vessels and create a more serious condition called pulmonary embolism. It is said that patients who have undergone hip, knee, abdominal, or leg surgery have higher chances of developing DVT, especially when the general anaesthesia lasts for more than 90 minutes. Moreover, post-surgery bedridden patients are also vulnerable to developing DVT.
But luckily, compression socks can help reduce the risk of DVT development by regulating your circulation and avoiding the accumulation of blood. The blood can return to the heart through healthy veins and prevent clotting.
Prevents Varicose and Spider Veins
Both varicose and spider veins are commonly caused by surgery on your lower legs. Varicose veins cause enlarged, swollen, and raised blood vessels, while spider veins turn your blood vessels smaller and purple, red, or blue. Usually, they occur because the circulation slows down after surgery, causing the veins to expand by pooling the blood inside.
Compression socks aid varicose and spider veins by promoting healthy blood circulation, reducing blood clotting and preventing your risk of developing varicose and spider veins.
Breast cancer surgery patients experience lymphedema. It is a condition that refers to the swelling of tissue due to the accumulation of protein-rich fluid that is generally drained out by the lymphatic system. This is commonly noticed in the legs or arms, causing swelling, inflammation, infection, and skin conditions. Lymphedema can be fought with the help of compression socks. These socks provide external pressure on your muscles, decreasing the fluid build-up in your lower legs. You may start feeling less inflammation and swelling in your legs.
Speeds Up Your Recovery Process
Constant healthy blood circulation, oxygen, and nutrients are needed for better healing post-surgery. And compression socks can speed up your healing process by exerting external pressure on your legs and properly distributing blood into your body. However, note that compression socks are not meant to replace any after-care surgery practices. They are only meant to elevate the healing and are a good addition to your recovery process.
Why is DVT Common After Surgery?
According to research, hospitalised patients after surgery have more chances of developing DVT. There's a change in blood walls, blood flow, and blood properties. These are caused due to decreased fluid intake, immobilisation, and increased body fluid loss. Furthermore, the research also concluded that surgery and trauma cause the coagulation system's activation, resulting in an increased risk of DVT. And since there are such high chances of DVT post-surgery, doctors recommend compression socks along with regular therapy to reduce blood clots.
Who are More Vulnerable to DVT After Surgery?
A 2009 study concluded that women were 70 times more likely to suffer from venous thromboembolism after an inpatient operation. There's a tenfold more increased risk in the same-day operation.
According to the NHS, here is a list of people who are more likely to develop DVT post-surgery:
- Inherited blood disorders
- History of DVT
- People above 60
- Overweight or obese people
- Pregnant women
- Someone with a central venous catheter
- People being treated for cancer
- Taking hormone therapy or birth control pills
- People travelling for a long time or are bedridden
- Someone with a deep vein injury or a broken bone
How to Prevent DVT with Compression Socks?
Compression socks put pressure on your legs. It reduces your vein’s diameter, causing increased blood flow. Compression garments allow the fluid to pile in your lower legs, help veins return the blood to your heart, reduce swelling in your legs, and prevent blood clots in the deep veins. They keep the blood flow healthy and avoid complications of spider and varicose veins, oedema, and blood clots. Wearing compression socks or stockings, especially copper compression socks holding anti-microbial properties, reduces your risk of developing DVT to a greater extent. These copper-infused compression socks contain anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-virus properties. They are meant to reduce your DVT leg pain and manage other symptoms by:
- Increasing your blood circulation
- Killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi
- Reducing soreness and inflammation in feet and legs
- Boosting your skin health
One research reported that compression stockings alone reduce DVT by about 60%. When combined with other methods like intermittent calf compression or low-dose heparin, the value increases to 85%. A study published mentioned that graduated elastic stockings with low-molecular-weight heparin reduce DVT. Sometimes, even anticoagulant medicines are also prescribed to prevent blood clots. Moreover, to prevent DVT, drink enough fluids (ask your surgeon about the intake level) and also try to move as much as possible post-surgery.
How Long Should You Wear Compression Socks After Knee Surgery?
Knee surgery recovery comes in phases. First three to five weeks, you will see increased swelling, which is generally when doctors recommend compression socks.
How Long Should You Wear Compression Socks After Hip Surgery?
Generally, you should wear compression socks for six weeks after hip surgery. Doctors may give you compression socks; if they don't you can try copper compression socks infused with anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
When to Remove Compression Stockings After Surgery?
If you are comfortable wearing compression socks for 24 hours a day, you can go around and wear them. But that is not the requirement. Talk to your doctor for the best recommendation since there are situations when compression socks are not recommended. In contrast, there are conditions like ablation of one or both of the saphenous veins in a leg where you cannot remove compression socks unless your doctor has said so.
Should You Wear Compression Socks to Bed After Surgery?
Straight after surgery, yes. Compression socks can be worn to bed as long as you are comfortable with them. Although always ask your doctor before making any decisions.