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What is the Deal with Anti Embolism Stockings? (An Analysis)

An Anti-Embolism Hosiery is not Ordinary Compression Stockings

A meme of a child surprised that anti-clot stockings are different from compression stockings

Anti-embolism stockings are always confused with ordinary compression stockings because it is assumed they perform similar functions. It is common to find both terms used interchangeably. However, these two types of stockings are different because they serve unassociated purposes. There are two unifying factors between anti-clot stockings and compression stockings. Both types of stockings have the same mechanism of action and their principal purpose is to improve blood circulation from the legs to the heart.

 a person in white anti-thrombosis stockings lying on a bed

In terms of function, regular compression stockings are made for daytime wear: from wake time till bedtime. The stockings are essential for long-distance travel, occupations that require standing and/or sitting for a long period, pregnant women, and sportspersons.

Compression stockings can also alleviate many cardiovascular conditions compared to anti-embolism stockings. They can prevent edema, aching and swelling on the ankles and feet, counter venous hypertension, and boost lymphatic drainage (just to name a few functions).

Anti-thrombosis stockings, on the other hand, are limited to immobile patients. The stockings’ only purpose is to prevent clot formation that is why they are referred to as Thrombo-Embolitic-Deterrent stockings or T.E.D stockings or anti-clot stockings or thrombosis stockings.

 white knee-high t.e.d stockings

While compression stockings seem to have many functions, it does not mean that they are more advantageous compared to anti-clot stockings in regards to preventing clot formation. Both types of stockings have their own unique purpose and one cannot be substituted for another. Anti-embolism stockings are only worn in bed while compression stockings are donned during the day. Each type of stockings has its own unique users.

Who is Eligible to Use Anti-Embolism Hose?

A patient lying in bed wearing white anti-thrombosis stockings
  • Post-surgical patients with a long recovery period: The time frame for a recovering patient may be too long restricting the patient to long periods of bed rest. Their lack of movement makes them susceptible to developing leg blood clots. therefore, the anti-clot stockings come in handy while they recover.
  • Patients with a high likelihood of developing (deep vein thrombosis) DVT: There is a higher probability of blood clot recurrence once you are predisposed to them. Consequently, patients with a history of blood clot must use embolism stockings in their time of sickness.
  • Patients suffering from acute illnesses and incapacitating medical conditions such as cancer: Terminal illnesses confine patients to long periods of bed rest because of the adverse effects of the disease and treatments. Thus, the anti-embolism hosiery is indispensable during this period as well.
  • Patients with immobility issues: Patients who are unable to move or require a walking aide before or/and after treatment, also need anti-embolism stockings because of the higher likelihood of clot formation.

Why are Anti-Clot Stockings Important?

 a picture of white thigh-high anti-thrombosis stockings

You will appreciate the importance of anti-thrombosis stockings by understanding what the stockings prevent and the deleterious consequences that result from not putting them into good use. From the name of the stockings, “anti-embolism”, it is evident that these stockings prevent the formation of emboli.

What is an Embolus?

 A curious cartoon meme depicting the curiosity of finding out the meaning of an embolus to understand anti-embolism

An embolus (plural emboli) is an obstruction inside your blood vessel that prevents or strains blood flow. The blockage form because of air bubbles, blood coagulation, body fat or foreign material that get trapped or form in your blood vessel, consequently, restricting the flow of blood. The process of obstruction is called embolism. It is the work of anti-clot stockings to prevent blood coagulation.

An embolus caused by a blood clot is called a thrombus. The thrombus is just a cluster of blood in a semi-solid state which forms prematurely in your blood vessel causing the blood to flow with great exertion. Anti-thrombosis stockings help prevent the formation of these blood clots in your legs. The action of blood clots developing in the deep veins of your legs is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

 An illustration of an embolus formation to grasp the need for anti-clot stockings

Blood clotting should not be feared. It is a vital process in your body because it prevents excessive bleeding both internally and externally. When you are dealing with a cut, a bruise or a deathly wound, blood clotting factors rush in and save the day by forming plugs that prevent leakages, infection and enhance wound healing. It is a blessing and a relief knowing you will not bleed to death or go through life worrying about anemia because of your blood clotting factors.

Emboli become life-threatening when they dislodge from the leg and move into the pulmonary arteries; a process known as pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism will complicate your condition further and, in some cases, reduce your chances of survival if they occur when you are suffering from a terminal illness; this is why medical practitioners use anti-clot stockings to prevent the development of emboli.

The likelihood of an emboli forming is increased because of inactivity. The blood in your legs becomes stagnates because of a decreased flow rate. Now imagine being sick and bedridden with the potential of developing clots that can dislodge and move to your lungs. It will make your period of recuperating excruciating. In such cases, it is critical to have anti-embolism hosiery.

 a nurse helping a patient wear t.e.d stockings

It is very easy for blood clots to travel into your lungs if they are not contained by anti-thrombosis stockings. Learning about blood circulation will increase your understanding of the path of the emboli.

Blood Circulation In a Nut-Shell

 An image of blood circulation to better understand anti-embolism

In the body, veins and arteries function as one-way streets with the heart being their focal location. Veins bring blood to the right side of your heart while arteries take away blood from the left side of the heart. Another important fact about circulation is veins carry blood without oxygen (deoxygenated blood) while arteries carry blood with oxygen (oxygenated blood).

an illustration of pulmonary circulation

However, there is an exception and it involves the blood vessels in the pulmonary (blood) circulation: the circulation from the heart to the lungs and vice versa. In this circulation, the pulmonary arteries carry deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs while the pulmonary vein carries oxygenated blood from the lungs back to the heart.

Consequently, blood clots, from a deep leg vein, go through the right side of the heart, then proceed to the pulmonary artery and eventually land in the lungs. Things get a bit murky in the lungs as the emboli find themselves trapped into small blood vessels known as capillaries in the lungs.

 An illustration of clots in the capillaries of the lungs to raise awareness of anti-clot stockings

The capillaries are just tiny branch extensions of the main blood vessels (veins and arteries). Their branched form increases the surface area for maximum gaseous exchange (when carbon dioxide is released from the blood and oxygen is taken into the blood).

 Back to the subject of interest, the blood clot’s humongous size in relation to the capillary size prevents it from moving any further in the capillaries. Unfortunately, their presence rakes havoc on the lung tissue and the heart. Therefore, an anti-embolism solution is critical in preventing this deathly conditions.

If the blood clot is big, it may cause extensive damage to the lungs.  The blockage will also,

  • Restrict your flow of blood to the heart  
  • Reduce oxygen levels in your blood.
  • Increase the pressure on the right side of your heart as the heart works extremely hard to pump blood with the irregularities of the pulmonary circulation.
  • Weaken your poor overworking heart as it overcompensates in pumping the blocked blood from the lungs back to the heart.

The Significance of Anti-Clot Stockings

 A 3-D image of a clot in a lung indicating the importance of anti-clot stockings

If immobility leads to clot formation, then mobility is an anti-embolism activity. Mobility is crucial for your cardiovascular health. Anti-embolism stockings come in handy when mobility is not an option for you.

Aside from mobility, gravity is another factor that affects your circulation from the legs to the heart. Gravity acts as an antagonist in leg blood circulation and the anti-embolism process. It pulls blood toward your feet as your heart wrestles to keep blood flowing upward; this struggle is further amplified when you are immobile for long periods.

Your blood percolates down to your feet since your lower leg favors the direction of gravity while you rest. It is, therefore, relieving to know that anti-thrombosis stockings work effectively against gravity.

 a person walking to improve blood circulation

Standard movement improves blood circulation by keeping the percolated blood flowing. However, you may be unable to move for weeks or months depending on your condition. Your blood will saturate in the lower leg region making it difficult to pump blood to the heart. Meanwhile, the blood left stagnant in your veins for a long period of time will start to coagulate leading to DVT. The clots typically form in the deep veins of your feet, calf or thighs when anti-clot stockings are not used to prevent the problem.

The clots have a higher probability of forming in your veins because of low pressure. In fact, veins have valves to prevent the backflow of blood because the pressure is in the vessel is too low. Lack of movement further aggravates this situation.  Therefore, the work of anti-thrombosis stockings is integral in producing and maintaining the pressure that keeps your blood flowing forward in times of inactivity due to sickness.

Blood flow with anti-embolism socks

The essence of an anti-embolism solution can not be downplayed considering the risks it eradicates for recuperating patients. The anti-clot stockings effectively control blood flow and prevent the formation of clots. Anti-embolism stockings also prevent the formation of DVT and pulmonary embolism as you go through treatment, in your post-surgery recovery journey, or as you manage your non-ambulatory condition. Clots will no longer be a cause for concern for you while receiving medical care because these anti-clot stockings will maintain your venous leg circulation as you rest.

Your recovery duration may take weeks or months, as such, the lack of movement will trigger the formation of blood clots but anti-thrombosis stockings will be your preventative approach to blood clot formation.

How Anti-Embolism Hose Work

Anti-embolism stockings provide additional external pressure to your distended veins constricting their size. The size reduction produces the needed force to pull up your blood. Good quality anti-clot stockings have varied pressure levels along the length of the stockings that press your veins by applying a different force at every point of contact in the process enabling a continuous flow of blood to the heart. The process prevents clot formation because blood flow is improved.

 How medical stockings prevent DVT
 A man wearing knee-high white anti-thrombosis stockings

Anti-clot stockings have only one function: to maintain proper venous flow. The stockings do not rectify underlying vein problems. As stated in the name, these anti-clot stockings prevent the formation of blood clots. They do not dissolve clots that have already formed in your veins prior to the use of the stockings. Therefore, if you have any other circulation complications, your physician should be duly informed to take other appropriate medical interventions.

Types of Anti-Clot Stockings

Anti embolism stockings, unlike ordinary compression stockings, come in two different lengths. The lengths produced are either the knee-high anti-embolism hosiery or thigh-high stockings. Compression stockings come in three standard lengths: knee-high, thigh-high and full leg stockings.

 A surgical patient in anti-thrombosis stockings

for the anti-embolism stockings,

  • The knee-high anti-clot stockings act on the feet, ankles and calves
  • The thigh-high anti-thrombosis stockings work on the thighs and the lower legs.

The knee-high anti embolism stockings are easy to don and doff while thigh-high anti-clot stockings provide compression from the lower leg to the thighs. The length of stockings given depends on your medical condition. Moreover, there is no such thing as length privilege.

 the two length sizes of t.e.d stockings

Regarding compression ratios, there are some exiting differences between the anti-embolism hosiery and regular compression stockings. For both stockings, however, compression is measured in mmHg (read as millimeters of mercury) since that is the unit of pressure.  

Nevertheless, the anti-thrombosis stockings have different pressure ratios compared to compression stockings. Furthermore, anti-thrombosis stockings have a shorter compression range than compression stockings.

For compression stockings, the range starts from 5mmHg and ends at 60mmHg. The stockings also exist in three standard measurements 15-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg and 30-40mmHg. Anti-thrombosis stockings, on the other hand, the pressure level tops out at 18mmHg.  The pressure level is low because anti-clot stockings are only meant to prevent the development of the thrombus.

For both anti-embolism stockings and compression stockings, the lower number in the compression level measures the lowest pressure while the higher number represents the highest pressure. Additionally, the highest number in the compression ratio is at the bottom of the stockings while the lowest is at the top of the stockings. Therefore, a pair of 10-18mmHg knee-high anti-embolism stockings will have the lowest pressure (10mmHg) located at the knee region of the sock and highest pressure region (18mmHg) at the feet portion of the sock.

 An image showing the graduated compression factor in anti-thrombosis stockings

The middle section of anti-clot stockings has pressure levels in decreasing order; this phenomenon is known as the graduated compression factor. The graduated compression factor is a mark of quality in anti embolism stockings. Without this attribute, the anti-clot stockings will not function properly.

 an image showing how anti-clot stockings improve circulation

The different pressure levels in the anti-embolism sock length apply varying degrees of force along the veins of your leg. The pressure is usually intense on your feet to push up the blood. The pressure lessens gradually as you move along the length of your leg simplifying the work for your heart. Additionally, the pressure variation also maintains a steady flow of blood reducing the possibility of your blood stagnating.

How are Anti-Embolism Stockings Donn?

 A nurse helping a patient put on anti-clot stockings

Since the anti-embolism hose is needed when you are incapacitated, a medical practitioner or your caregiver will be in charge of clothing you as you recuperate. You can also use a device to help in wearing and removing the stockings. Your leg length will be measured and a fitting size determined from the measurements. The sock length and compression ratio will also be confirmed by your physician after your prognosis.

 thigh-high anti-clot stockings

You will use the anti-clot stockings throughout the period of your stay in the hospital and/or after discharge depending on your condition (if you are able to walk or move after treatment). Therefore, having extra pairs will help with changing and cleaning the stockings.

Additionally, the anti-embolism stockings should not be rolled down in the course of bed rest or removed for more than 30 minutes. During the period of use, you will have to avoid oily or greasy topical applications as they interfere with the functioning of the anti-embolism stockings.

Finally, Some Clarification

 white knee-high anti-thrombosis stockings

Anti-embolism stockings are not regular compression stockings. While they are compression gear, they perform have a specified function that is different from compression stockings. The light-weighted anti-embolism stockings are meant to improve your circulation as you recover or manage your illness or medical condition; These anti-clot stockings are the worriers that ensure your leg circulation continues per usual as your health improves.

Anti-embolism stockings remove all the drama regarding clots making your healing journey a tad bit easy. Moreover, if you are suffering from an incapacitating condition, the anti-clot stockings will prevent complications that can interfere with your quality of living. Consider buying anti-embolism hose instead of compression stockings to prevent DVT and pulmonary embolism because that is what they were invented to tackle.