564 Compression stockings prevent DVT in airline passengers

December 03, 2017

written by Brian McAvoy

Clinical question
How effective are compression stockings for preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in people travelling on flights lasting at least 4 hours?

Bottom line
High-quality evidence showed airline passengers can expect a substantial reduction in their risk of a symptomless DVT if they wear compression stockings. Wearing stockings might reduce the incidence of this outcome from a few tens per 1000 passengers to 2 or 3 per 1000. There was moderate-quality evidence that superficial vein thrombosis might be reduced if passengers wore compression stockings. Low-quality evidence showed passengers who wore stockings also experienced less oedema in their legs. No significant adverse effects were reported. However, it was not possible to identify whether these effects of wearing stockings translated into effects on outcomes such as death, pulmonary embolism and symptomatic DVT.

The quality of the evidence on swelling was limited by the way swelling was measured. There was no robust evidence to indicate that the different types of stockings assessed in the trials varied in their effects, nor that particular subgroups of people similar to those in these trials would not experience this benefit from wearing these stockings.

Air travel increases the risk of DVT, particularly on longer flights. It has been suggested that wearing compression stockings might reduce this risk.

Cochrane Systematic Review
Clarke MJ et al. Compression stockings for preventing deep vein thrombosis in airline passengers. Cochrane Reviews, 2016, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD004002.DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD004002.pub3. This review contains 11 studies involving 2906 participants.

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.