Knee High Versus Thigh High Compression Stockings Controversy

Once again we are joining the ongoing debate over the effectiveness of knee high compression stockings versus thigh high compression stockings.

Even though numerous studies and research have been conducted on this subject matter, so far they have not been able to produce a common consensus regarding the question whether knee length or thigh length compression stockings are more effective for the patient.


Are Knee High Compression Stockings More Effective?

Knee high or thigh high compression stockings are typically prescribed for protection against the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis (commonly also known as blood clots in the deeper veins).  In other instances compression stockings are also worn by patients to boost circulation.   Blood clots have a higher risk of developing in individuals who have undergone surgery or who have had a stroke.  In severe cases these blood clots can detach from the wall inside the vein and travel up through the blood stream to the lungs.  If they get lodged in the lungs the can block the blood flow and cause a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be deadly.

Knee high compression stockings are often the preferred choice because patients tend to be more willing to follow through in wearing them, mainly because they are easier to put on and take off.  They are also perceived to be more comfortable to wear and according to studies they cause less skin irritations.

On the flip side research also found that knee length compression may offer less protection as compared to thigh high compression hosiery.  With knee high compression stockings it is also important that they are properly size and positioned correctly below the bend of the knee to prevent any pinching or folding over, which would be counterproductive and actually interfere with proper circulation.


Are Thigh High Compression Stockings Preferable Over Knee Highs?

Thigh high compression stockings seem to offer more protection, especially if the patient has symptoms in the upper part of the legs.  Thigh length compression is obviously also more beneficial or necessary if swelling, pooling of blood or damaged valves inside the veins are present above the knee or in the upper thighs.

Unfortunately thigh high compression stockings seem to have a higher incidence of causing skin irritations, especially in connection with the silicone backed hold up bands that keeps them from sliding down the legs.  Some people may be experiencing allergic reactions against the silicone bands that are fused to the inside of the hold up bands. 

As with any compression stocking proper sizing and fit is paramount to achieve the desired effect with them.  The hold up band of thigh length compression stockings must not be too tight to prevent it from rolling over or being folded over because this could actually restrict the blood flow.

If somebody has ongoing problems with skin irritations from the silicone hold up band there are additional thigh high and full length options such as gartered compression stockings, compression stockings that attach around the hips or last not least waist high compression pantyhose.

A recent abstract published in the US National Library of Medicine [PMID: 22592717 in May of 2012 concluded that there is no sufficient proof concerning the effectiveness of knee length versus thigh length compression stockings with regard to reducing the rate of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in hospitalized patients.  Further studies and research are needed in order to draw more reliable conclusions on this subject matter.

For additional reading please follow the links below to previous posts on this subject matter …

Is Thigh Length or Below The Knee Length Compression Better Protection Against PTS

Compression Stockings With Silicone Bands Can Cause Allergic Reactions

Shapes and Styles of  Compression Stockings


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  1. Selina S. says

    Thanks for being my personal tutor on this topic. I really enjoyed your article. You assist readers really like me in my living. Thank you.

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