Graduated Compression Stockings (GCS)
How do GCS work?
Graduated Compression Stockings (GCS) work by putting pressure on the veins in your leg to improve the flow of blood. The term “graduated” describes that the pressure is greatest at your ankle and “gradually” lessens moving up the leg.
GCS come in knee-high or full-length. If the leg swelling is below the knee, then a below-knee stocking is appropriate. If swelling involves the thigh, then an above-knee stocking may be needed. Your health care provider will indicate on the prescription which length is right for you. At the specialized store where you purchase the GCS, your leg will be measured and the stocking with be individualized to ensure a correct fit. Most stockings are sold in pairs, but you need only to wear a stocking on the leg affected by the blood clot.
As opposed to GCS, Thrombo-Embolic-Deterrent (TED) stockings (white surgical stockings) are not sufficiently tight as they have less pressure. They are not useful to prevent or treat the swelling after a blood clot. TED stockings are only meant to be worn by people who have had recent surgery or are bedridden to prevent blood clots along with other preventative therapies that might be offered.
How do I put my GCS on?
GCS are designed to be tight. They can be difficult to put on and take off and you may need someone to help you. Remember though that the benefits of the stocking are worth the effort of putting them on.
Below are helpful tips when using GCS:
- Make sure your skin is dry. If you use a lotion, be sure it is completely absorbed before putting on the stocking. Talcum powder can help make the stocking glide on more smoothly. Medical supply shops carry devices and gloves which can help guide the stocking smoothly over the leg, so ask about “stocking aids”.
- Insert your hand into the stocking as far as the heel pocket and turn the stocking inside out.
- Carefully slip your foot into the foot portion and ease the stocking over your heel – make sure your heel is centered in the heel pocket.
- Bring the rest of the stocking over your heel and up around your ankle and calf, gently pull the stocking up the leg and smooth out any creases. Knee-high stockings – the top of the stocking sits below your knee. Thigh-high stockings – the top of the stocking rests below your buttocks.
- Do not to fold or roll down your stockings while wearing them – this can affect how well they work and may restrict blood flow through your legs.
- If your stocking keeps falling or sliding down, you probably need a shorter stocking or a different size. Replace compression stockings as needed. Over time, the fabric will lose its elasticity. Stockings usually last about 6 months.
When should l use GCS?
For maximum effectiveness, you should begin wearing GCS as soon as possible after being diagnosed with a DVT. They need to be prescribed by your doctor so remember to ask during your visit. It is best to put compression stockings on first thing in the morning before you start moving around when your leg is less swollen and remove them at bedtime. There is no need to wear them at night. You should wear compression stockings every day for as long as they continue to make your leg feel better.
When using GCS, make sure to check the condition of your skin daily. Look out for: sore marks at the top of your legs and/or blisters or discoloration of your heels or ankle bones. If you notice any of these signs, or you’re worried, do not put your stockings back on and call your healthcare provider.