Mercy's Dr. Kurtis Kim Weighs In on Wearing Compression Socks When Traveling

July 3, 2018
The Vascular Center at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Kurtis Kim, MD, FACS, RPVI,  Director of Vascular Laboratory at Mercy, responded to questions from Health magazine regarding the need to wear compression socks when traveling given concerns of DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis. A board certified vascular surgeon, Dr. Kim is a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI).

Should we be wearing compression socks when traveling, or at least for longer haul flights?

In general, everyone benefits from wearing compression stockings whether you are traveling or not as veins undergo degenerative changes over the course of one’s lifetime due to gravity of blood being pulled to the lowest part of one’s body – the legs.  This creates the condition called venous insufficiency which 85% of world population have in varying degree of severity.  People with venous insufficiency (under which varicose veins, spider veins and stasis dermatitis all fall into) have slightly higher risk of developing DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), but not enough to justify that they should all be on blood thinners.

Normal people with no risk factors (recent surgery, family history of DVT, prior history of DVT or pulmonary embolism, history of venous insufficiency, varicose veins, routine leg swelling, obesity, etc) should not need compression stockings when flight is short (>4hrs).  Beyond it, it is recommended that they get out of seat and walk every two hours to assist in venous blood circulation.  For those who have aforementioned risks, and is not taking blood thinners actively, I would recommend wearing compression stockings grade 20-30mm Hg and also do the every two hours walking, and consult their physicians or vascular specialist before flying.

What can wearing compression socks while flying prevent (i.e. blood clots)?

It lessens the leg swelling caused by blood pulling which increases the risk of DVT for at risk patients.  Flights have many other risks including radiation exposure that is much higher than at sea level. Compression stockings lessen the pulling of blood in the leg with externally compressing garments and thereby decreases the risk of leg swelling which may increase the risk of DVT for at risk people.

How do they perform?

Compression stockings provide, at best, assistance, but does not prevent adverse events.  It does assist in lessening the risk.

Any other thoughts?

For healthy individuals, the risk of DVT during flight is very, very low, even on a long flight.  However, if have these risk factors, then it would be best to discuss the situation with your primary care physician or vascular specialist before traveling to minimize the risk of DVT. 

Dr. Kurtis Kim, The Vascular Center at Mercy


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at www.mdmercy.com, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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