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Compressive stockings are considered the centerpiece of treatment in chronic venous disease (CVD). It is known that stockings fail in some patients for varied reasons: they are ineffective despite wear in some, but more commonly patients are unable or unwilling to use them as prescribed. Detailed statistics regarding stocking compliance have not been available except in a few selected series focused on leg ulcers. This study focuses on use, compliance, and efficacy of compression stockings among a large cohort of patients referred to a tertiary venous practice. A total of 3,144 new CVD patients were seen from 1998 to 2006. As a referral practice, patients had been under the care of primary-care physicians or specialists for variable times before. A detailed history of past and present compressive regimens was part of our initial evaluation of CVD patients. These data were entered into a time-stamped electronic medical record and later analyzed. Only 21% of patients reported using the stockings on a daily basis, 12% used them most days, and 4% used them less often. The remaining 63% did not use the stockings at all or abandoned them after a trial period in the past. The primary reasons given for nonusage were as follows: unable to specify a reason, 30%; not prescribed by the primary physician, 25%; did not help, 14%; binding/"cutting off" of circulation, 13%; "too hot" to wear, 8%; limb soreness, 2%; poor cosmetic appearance, 2%; unable to apply without help, 2%; contact dermatitis or itching, 2%; and other (cost, work situation, etc), 2%. Multiple factors were cited by 8%. Surprisingly, there was no difference in compliance between men and women (39% vs. 38%) or among different decile age groups. Compliance was relatively better at 50% in patients who gave a prior history of deep vein thrombosis (n = 675) compared to 35% in those without such a prior history (n = 2,437) (p < 0.0001). Compliance was poor in CEAP lower (0-2) as well as higher (3-6) clinical classes (p = nonsignificant). Overall compliance with stockings was low and statistically not different in several subsets with significant symptoms: compliance in pain, 39%; swelling, 37%; stasis dermatitis, 46%; and stasis ulceration, 37%. Compliance was relatively better with longer duration of symptoms: <1 year, 25%; 1-5 years, 34%; 6-10 years, 40%; >10 years, 44% (p < 0.003). Symptoms were still persistent in about a third (37%) of the patients despite apparent compliance with prescribed stockings. Compressive stockings are inapplicable in about a quarter of patients due to the condition of the limb or the general health of the patient. They are ineffective despite wear in about a third of patients seen. In the remainder, noncompliance with prescribed compressive stockings is an apparent major cause of treatment failure. Noncompliance is very high in patients with CVD regardless of age, sex, etiology of CVD, duration of symptoms, or disease severity. The reasons for noncompliance can be grouped into two interdependent major categories: (1) wear-comfort factors and (2) intangible sense of restriction imposed by the stockings.