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Anti-Embolism Stockings vs Compression Stockings – Which One?

In the nursing world, many believe that anti-embolism stockings and compression stockings are interchangeable. However, it is important to know that these stockings are different and each serve a different purpose. You can only achieve optimal results when the right one is used at the appropriate time.

What Are Anti-embolism Stockings?

Anti-embolism stockings, or thrombo-embolic deterrent (T.E.D.) hose, are either knee or thigh-length stockings made from elastic.

 Knee-length anti-embolism stockings
Knee-length anti-embolism stockings

These stockings apply pressure on the superficial veins by compressing the legs, which can reduce or prevent formation of blood clots. This leads to increase in blood flow and ensures the veins do not expand.

In addition, anti-embolism stockings help prevent the adverse effects of venous distension during surgery. You can feel the compression of TED hoses mainly in the ankle area. The pressure pattern is graduated and applied at the ankle, calf, popliteal, lower thigh, and upper thigh. Before using these stockings, the patient’s legs should be measured to ensure that the pressure pattern is appropriate. The pressure helps prevent blood pooling in both legs.

Thigh-length Anti-embolism Socks
Thigh-length Anti-embolism Socks

These white stockings are appropriate for patients who are either confined to a bed or just non-mobile. The stockings are ineffective for individuals who can sit, walk, or stand. These affordable stockings offer temporary solutions to post-surgery patients and patients in nursing homes. TED hoses should be replaced with a new pair after about three weeks. Since the stockings are not designed for mobile use, nurses should not wear them.

Who Uses Anti-embolism Stockings?

Surgical patients who have high risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) should use anti-embolism stockings to prevent death.

Medical Conditions that Require the Use of Anti-embolism Stockings

Some of the medical conditions that may require a patient to use anti-embolism stockings include:

  • Patients at high risk of having VTE, including those with active cancer, reduced mobility, and history of VTE.
  • Patients who have impaired mobility (bed bound, chair-bound, or unable to walk without aid) even after being discharged from the hospital can use TED stockings until they can walk unaided.
VTE Patient with Anti-embolism Stockings
VTE Patient with Anti-embolism Stockings

How to Wear Anti-embolism Stockings

First, measure each of the patient’s legs in order to get the correct size. This can be done in bed or in a standing position. Note that each leg may have different measurements.

Before putting on the stockings, lie down and prop up your legs on top of pillows. Leave the legs on the pillows for about 15 minutes.

To make it easier to wear the stockings, put some powder on each ankle. Your healthcare provider will advise you on the type of powder you should use.

Gently pull the stocking on your foot. With short but quick moves, pull the loose material of the stockings gathered onto your leg. Make sure they stay smooth and do not wrinkle at any point.

What Are Compression Stockings?

Thigh-length Compression Stockings
Thigh-length Compression Stockings

Compression stockings are an elastic hosiery worn to compress legs. They are tight-fitting, stretchy, and look more like pantyhose. Strong elastic is used to increase pressure on the lower extremities like the feet, ankles, and legs. They are tightest around the ankles.

Compression Stockings for Who?

Compression stockings are for people who can walk but are at risk of suffering leg fatigue, lymphedema (leg swelling), varicose veins, etc.

Function of Compression Stockings

The main function of compression stockings is to help reduce the diameter of the distended veins in the legs and also to increase the velocity of venous blood flow. By so doing, the valve becomes more effective. When the surface veins, as well as the arteries and the muscles, are compressed, blood will be forced to pass through narrower channels. This increases pressure on the arteries, which increase the blood that returns to the heart and reduces the blood that pools in the feet.

Varicose Veins Vs. Healthy Veins
Varicose Veins Vs. Healthy Veins

Benefits of Using Compression Socks

One of the many benefits of using compression stockings is boosting the veins so they can easily push blood to the heart. This helps to improve the way blood vessels work by relaxing the arteries.

In addition, they prevent your legs from getting achy as well as swelling in the ankles and feet. You can use compression stockings if you usually feel dizzy whenever you stand up. People whose job requires them to be on their feet a lot will need these stockings.

Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis

When to Use Compression Stockings

Those who need compression stockings include:

  • People who just had a surgery
  • Athletes
  • Pilots, and people who spend a lot of time on airplanes
  • Pregnant women
  • People who find it hard to move their legs or who cannot leave their bed
  • People whose work requires that they stand all day

Medical Conditions that Require the Use of Compression Stockings

Some of the medical conditions that will require a person to use compression stockings include:

  • Chronic peripheral venous insufficiency: This condition occurs when the veins can no longer pump deoxygenated blood to the heart.
  • Deep vein thrombosis: This condition occurs when blood flow in the lower extremities decreases, causing blood to pool in the legs and form blood clots.
  • Edema: This condition occurs when opposing forces in small blood vessels as well as capillaries cause the plasma water to enter the soft tissues in a process known as net ultra-filtration.
  • Lipodermatosclerosis: This refers to a subcutaneous fat that is inflamed, and is one of the ways panniculitis forms.
  • Lymphedema: This medical condition has to do with the swelling of a body part when lymph fluid accumulates abnormally. It usually happens whenever something interferes with the process of lymph fluid drainage into the blood. Consequently, this could make the arm, neck, leg, or abdomen swell.
  • Phlebitis: This occurs when the vein is inflamed and has blood clots in it caused by trauma, infection, or inflammation. It is predominantly found in leg veins and mostly affects people with varicose veins. Due to the sudden occurrence of inflammation, the thrombus firmly adheres to the wall of the vein and puts the superficial vein, which increases the risk of clots.
  • Varicose veins: These veins are saccular and distended with tendency to expand and lead to venous inflammation. When they develop, they can be very painful and do not disappear without treatment. When varicose veins form externally, it is a sign that the patient has venous weakness.

How to Wear Compression Stockings

How to Wear Compression Stockings
How to Wear Compression Stockings

First, smooth the stockings out until they lay flat against your legs without bunching.

They should not be too long; do not roll down the tops because that will make them too tight. When the stockings get too tight, they can cut off blood circulation and cause other issues.

If stockings were prescribed by a doctor, you should follow instructions, including wearing them almost all day. However, you can take the compression stockings off when you want to bathe. It is possible to wear your socks, shoes, or slippers over them and go about your normal duties.

Compression Stockings Worn with Footwear and Jewelry
Compression Stockings Worn with Footwear and Jewelry

Anti-embolism Stockings vs. Compression Stockings

Quite often, patients may receive the wrong stockings for their condition. The differences between anti-embolism and compression stockings relate to their design, use, and duration. Here are some of the major differences:


Although both stockings are used for compression, it is important to note that they differ in purpose. The medical reason behind wearing any of them is a major way to differentiate anti-embolism stockings from compression stockings.

Anti-embolism socks

TED hose is worn to prevent blood pooling and reduce the risk of blood clotting, which is known as embolism. Hence, anti-embolism stockings are best suited for post-operative patients or patients who are not mobile.

Compression Socks

In contrast, compression stockings improve blood flow, which are designed to meet the needs of ambulatory or mobile patients. Compression stockings are highly recommended by physicians for treating conditions like edema, chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, lymphedema, phlebitis, lipodermatosclerosis, and even pregnancy.


Compression Stockings in Different Styles and Colors
Compression Stockings in Different Styles and Colors

TED hose and compression stockings are designed differently in order to function optimally. In terms of appearance, anti-embolism stockings are only found in white and have a hole around the toes for monitoring the circulatory status of the patient. Compression stockings, on the other hand, come in different styles and colors.

Compression Levels

Graduated Compression Levels
Graduated Compression Levels

One major difference between anti-embolism stockings and compression stockings is that they vary in compression levels. Both stockings have their compression levels measured in millimeters of Mercury (mmHg). Unlike anti-embolism stockings, compression stockings offer graduated compression. This means that the stockings are very tight around the ankle, but ease gradually upwards.

Most anti-embolism stockings have a compression level of 8 to 18mmHg, while compression stockings are mainly classified into three compression levels: 30 to 40mmHg, 20 to 30mmHg, and 15 to 20mmHg. This means that the compression level of anti-embolism stockings is lower than that of compression stockings. It is important that patients who need compression levels that exceed 20mmHg get a doctor’s prescription first.


The duration of use for both stockings depends on the individual situation. Usually, anti-embolism stockings are used for short-term situations while compression stockings have long-term use.

Anti-embolism stockings will have to be replaced with a new pair after about three weeks. However, compression stockings last for about 6 months.

Final Thought

It is important to give your legs the right support when needed. Medical personnel, patients, and caregivers need to be aware of the differences between anti-embolism stockings and compression stockings. An in-depth understanding of the patient’s condition is also required before choosing the most suitable compression garments.

Remember that individuals should be assessed by health professionals, have their legs measured, and then be closely monitored while using the stockings.