How long should I wear compression stockings after surgery?

Following surgery, it’s recommended that you wear compression (anti-embolism) stockings until you’re able to move around freely.

Your ability to move will be significantly reduced if you're unable to walk without help or you spend most of the day in bed or in a chair.

Your surgeon, or another healthcare professional who is responsible for your care, will tell you how long you should wear anti-embolism stockings for after your operation.

It's recommended that you wear the stockings both day and night, but you can remove them to have a bath or shower. 

Anti-embolism stockings

Anti-embolism stockings are a type of compression stocking designed to prevent venous thromboembolism (VTE).

VTE is a serious condition that can be fatal. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most common form of VTE. It's where a blood clot develops in one of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs.

Wearing anti-embolism stockings on your legs reduces your risk of developing VTE. Other types of compression stocking are used to treat, rather than prevent, conditions that affect blood flow in the legs, including DVT.

For information about these stockings, see How long should I wear compression stockings to improve my circulation? 

Will I need anti-embolism stockings?

When you’re admitted to hospital, your VTE risk will be assessed to decide if you need anti-embolism stockings. You may need to wear stockings even if you’re able to leave hospital on the same day as your operation.

Your risk of developing VTE may be increased if your:

  • mobility is expected to be significantly reduced for three or more days
  • operation lasts more than 90 minutes
  • operation lasts more than 60 minutes and is on your pelvis or one of your legs

Anti-embolism stockings aren’t suitable for everyone. For example, they’re not recommended if you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), where the blood supply to your legs is blocked.

Reducing your risk of VTE

Wearing anti-embolism stockings is one way of reducing your risk of developing VTE. You risk can also be reduced by making sure you drink enough fluids (check with your surgeon how much you should be drinking), and moving around as soon as possible after your operation. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to reduce your VTE risk. Read more about preventing VTE.

Read more answers to questions about operations, tests and procedures.

Further information: 

Page last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 19/03/2016