All lower extremity compression is NOT created equally.
Individuals may be prescribed lower extremity compression to aid in the treatment of a variety of conditions. Two common examples include edema (fluid retention) and DVT (Deep Vein Thromboses, or blood clots). The treatment for these conditions is similar, which involves the use of garments that provide pressure to the lower extremities. Two of the most common names for compression garments are TED Hose and Compression Stockings. Many people, including healthcare professionals, mistakenly identify all compression garments as simply, TED Hose. It is crucial that medical personnel, caregivers, and patients alike are aware that there are specific differences between these types of compression garments.
TED Hose, or Thrombo-Embolic Deterrent Hose, may be used for individuals who are non-ambulatory (literally, not walking-TEDs are for BEDS!) or immediately post-surgical to help prevent pooling of blood in the legs that could lead to a blood clot. TED Hose have a compression level at or below 20mmHg, which is highest at the calf—where blood tends to pool when patients are in bed. The mmHg stands for millimeters of Mercury and is used to describe the amount of pressure exerted (this is also the same unit used to measure blood pressure). TED Hose are made to last approximately three weeks, since patients have either mobilized again after surgery or have another preventive measure in place for blood clots.
Compression Stockings may be prescribed for ambulatory (mobile) patients with circulation problems that require a more aggressive level of compression, for conditions such as venous insufficiency, lymphedema, and varicose veins. These garments are best for patients who are ambulatory, as walking aids blood return while the stockings prevent excess blood from remaining in the lower extremities. In these garments, the compression levels are generally divided into 15-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg, and 30-40mmHg categories, with some patients requiring special custom garments up to 60mmHg. Generally, garments that exert a level of compression 20mmHg or greater to an extremity will need to be ordered by a physician as they are often considered prescription strength. In compression stockings, the pressure is greatest at the ankle—where the effect of gravity is greatest on the veins while standing. Compression stockings should last approximately 6 months or more if cared for as directed.