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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Nov 9;(11):CD008819. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008819.pub2.

Compression stockings for the initial treatment of varicose veins in patients without venous ulceration.

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Public Health Sciences, The Medical School, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.



Compression hosiery or stockings are often the first line of treatment for varicose veins in people without either healed or active venous ulceration. Evidence is required to determine whether the use of compression stockings can effectively manage and treat varicose veins in the early stages.


To assess the effectiveness of compression stockings for the initial treatment of varicose veins in patients without healed or active venous ulceration.


The Cochrane Peripheral Vascular Disease Group searched their Specialised Register (last searched 31 May 2011) and CENTRAL (2011, Issue 2). In addition, the reference lists of relevant articles were searched. Authors of ongoing and current trials were contacted. There were no language restrictions.


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were included if they involved participants diagnosed with primary trunk varicose veins without healed or active venous ulceration (Clinical, Etiology, Anatomy, Pathophysiology (CEAP) classification C2 to C4). Included trials assessed compression stockings versus no treatment, compression versus placebo stockings, or compression stockings + drug intervention versus drug intervention alone. Trials comparing different lengths and pressures of stockings were also included. Trials involving other types of treatment for varicose veins (either as a comparator to stockings or as an initial non-randomised treatment), including sclerotherapy and surgery, were excluded.


Two authors assessed the trials for inclusion and quality (SS and LR). SS extracted the data, which were checked by LR. Attempts were made to contact trial authors where missing or unclear data were present.


Seven studies involving 356 participants with varicose veins without healed or active venous ulceration were included. Different levels of pressure were exerted by the stockings in the studies, ranging from 10 to 50 mmHg. One study assessed compression hosiery versus no compression hosiery. The other six compared different types or pressures of stockings. The methodological quality of all included trials was unclear, mainly because of inadequate reporting.The symptoms subjectively improved with the wearing of stockings across trials that assessed this outcome, but these assessments were not made by comparing one randomised arm of a trial with a control arm and are therefore subject to bias.Meta-analyses were not undertaken due to inadequate reporting and actual or suspected high levels of heterogeneity.


There is insufficient, high quality evidence to determine whether or not compression stockings are effective as the sole and initial treatment of varicose veins in people without healed or active venous ulceration, or whether any type of stocking is superior to any other type. Future research should consist of a large RCT of participants with trunk varices either wearing or not wearing compression stockings to assess the efficacy of this intervention. If compression stockings are found to be beneficial, further studies assessing which length and pressure is the most efficacious could then take place.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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