Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs (calf or thigh) or the pelvis. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but can also have no symptoms.
A Deep vein thrombosis can occur if you have certain medical conditions that affect how your blood clots. Deep vein thrombosis can also happen if you don't move for a long time, such as after surgery, following an accident, or when you are confined to a hospital or nursing home bed.
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition because a blood clot that has formed in your veins can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs. This is known as a Pulmonary Embolism and can be a life threatening condition.
Having surgery can be a risk factor for developing DVT.
All patients presenting for surgery, at any of our surgical locations are assessed for their risk of DVT. Based on your individualized risk assessment, necessary interventions will be put in place to help lessen and prevent DVT occurrence for you. If you have concerns for this, please discuss it with your surgeon, the pre-operative team at your POS visit and/or your admitting nurse on arrival for surgery.
Who is at risk for DVT?
According to the CDC:
Almost anyone can have a DVT. However, certain factors can increase the chance of having this condition. The chance increases even more for someone who has more than one of these factors at the same time.
The following is a list of factors that increase the risk of developing DVT:
- Injury to a vein, often caused by:
- Severe muscle injury, or
- Major surgery (particularly involving the abdomen, pelvis, hip, or legs).
- Slow blood flow, often caused by:
- Confinement to bed
(e.g., due to a medical condition or after surgery);
- Limited movement (e.g., a cast on a leg to help heal an injured bone);
- Sitting for a long time, especially with crossed legs; or
- Confinement to bed
- Increased estrogen, often caused by:
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy, sometimes used after menopause
- Pregnancy, for up to 6 weeks after giving birth
- Certain chronic medical illnesses, such as:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Cancer and its treatment
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Other factors that increase the risk of DVT include:
- Previous DVT or PE
- Family history of DVT or PE
- Age (risk increases as age increases)
- A catheter located in a central vein
- Inherited clotting disorders (Factor V Leiden, Lupus Anticoagulant Syndrome, Anticardiolipin Antibody, Deficiency of Antithrombin III, Protein C, Protein S or Heparin Cofactor II, Polycythemia Vera, Primary Thrombocytosis)
Signs and symptoms of DVT include:
- Changes in skin color (redness)
- Leg pain
- Leg swelling (edema)
- Skin that feels warm to the touch
- Half of those with the condition have no symptoms
You can have a PE (Pulmonary Embolus) without any symptoms of a DVT.
Signs and symptoms of PE can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Faster than normal or irregular heart beat
- Chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Very low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting
If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.
What can I do to help prevent my risk of DVT?
The CDC recommends the following tips to help prevent DVT:
- Move around as soon as possible after having been confined to bed, such as after surgery, illness, or injury.
- If you’re at risk for DVT, talk to your doctor about:
- Graduated compression stockings (sometimes called “medical compression stockings”)
- Medication (anticoagulants) to prevent DVT.
- When sitting for long periods of time, such as when traveling for more than four hours:
- Get up and walk around every 2 to 3 hours.
- Exercise your legs while you’re sitting by:
- Raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor
- Raising and lowering your toes while keeping your heels on the floor
- Tightening and releasing your leg muscles
- Wear loose-fitting clothes.
- You can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, and following your doctor's recommendations based on your individual risk factors.