Word on Health

Word on Deep Vein Thrombosis

A DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg. You may have no symptoms at all with a DVT, or you may get a cramping pain, redness or swelling in the leg.

Visit the NHS Choices website to read more about the symptoms of DVT.

Avoiding DVT  You can reduce your risk of DVT by making changes to your lifestyle, such as:

  • not smoking
  • eating a healthy balanced diet
  • getting regular exercise
  • maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are obese
  • (There is no evidence that supports taking aspirin to reduce your risk of developing DVT.)

Travelling If you are at risk of getting a DVT, or have had a DVT previously, consult your GP before embarking on long-distance travel. If you are planning a long-distance plane, train or long car journey, ensure that you:

  • drink plenty of water
  • avoid excessive alcohol as it can lead to dehydration
  • avoid taking sleeping pills as it can cause immobility
  • perform simple leg exercises, such as regularly flexing your ankles
  • take occasional short walks when possible
  • take advantage of refuelling stopovers where it may be possible to get out and walk about
  • wear elastic compression stockings

Travel insurance When travelling abroad, it is very important to make sure that you are prepared, should you or a member of your family fall ill. Make sure you have full travel insurance to cover the costs of any healthcare you may need to receive. This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer or heart disease, that may increase your risk of developing DVT.

DVT can be a very serious condition and it is important that you receive medical assistance as soon as possible. Prompt treatment of DVT will help to minimise the risk of complications.

Whatever the circumstances - if you develop any of the symptoms of a blood clot, or you suspect you may have one, see your GP or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as is possible. Blood clots can be treated if they're spotted in time.

VTE Every year, many thousands of people in the UK develop a blood clot in a vein. It's known as venous thromboembolism (VTE) and is a serious, potentially fatal, medical condition. (VTE is the collective name for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism.) 

Pulmonary embolism Occasionally, a clot in a vein dislodges and forms what is known as an embolus and moves to the lungs. This is a more dangerous condition, called pulmonary embolism (PE). Known as the 'sudden killer' because it can strike so quickly, PE can cause breathlessness, chest pain and sudden collapse. Click here to learn more about the symptoms of PE.

Although serious, most blood clots can be completely avoided. The key is to be aware if you're at risk and take some simple preventative steps.

The information below focuses on blood clots in a vein. If you want information on blood clots in an artery, which is a common cause of heart attack and stroke, you can read more on the NHS Choices website about arterial thrombosis.

Who gets blood clots?  Although it can happen to anyone, you're more at risk of developing blood clots if you can't move around very much or if you're unwell.

You've probably heard of blood clots linked to long-haul plane journeys or the contraceptive pill, but you're much more likely to get a blood clot after going into hospital. In fact, about two-thirds of all blood clots occur during or just after a stay in hospital.

Read more about how and why blood clots occur on the NHS Choices website 

Hospital-acquired blood clots  In 2005, a House of Commons Health Committee report stated that every year in England an estimated 25,000 deaths occur as a result of hospital-acquired VTE."

A National VTE Prevention Programme has been put in place to try to reduce the number of deaths caused by VTE acquired in hospitals.  This VTE prevention programme has already had some positive results.

Am I at risk?  When you arrive at hospital, you should be checked for your risk of blood clots.  Hospital staff will record your age and weight and ask you about your general health. The assessment will also take into account the reason for your hospital stay. If you've been admitted to hospital and you haven't had your blood clot risk checked, it's important that you ask a doctor or nurse. Equally, if you've been told you're at risk of clots and have been given medicine, stockings or other devices, it's important that you understand how to use them properly. Don't be afraid to ask hospital staff about reducing your risk of blood clots - it could save your life.

Your risk of clots is likely to be higher, for instance, if you're having a major operation, if you're going to be confined to bed for long periods, or you're very overweight.

Some people also have certain 'risk factors' that make them more likely to get a clot while in hospital. These include women who take the combined contraceptive pill or HRT, women who are pregnant or who have recently had a baby, if you're over 60, or if you've had a previous blood clot.

If the assessment shows that you're at risk of a blood clot, you should be offered preventative treatment. The options include blood-thinning drugs, compression stockings, or foot pumps to keep your blood circulating and help prevent any clots forming.

Hospital staff should check whether bleeding might be a problem before offering you a drug to help prevent a clot..

Questions you might like to ask your healthcare team about blood clots are:

  • Am I at risk of blood clots?
  • How likely am I to have bleeding problems?
  • What happens if I have problems with a drug or treatment I am having to help prevent clots?
  • How can I help myself?

You can help yourself before coming into hospital by:

  • losing any excess weight
  • stopping smoking
  • talking to your doctor if you take HRT or the combined contraceptive pill – you may need to stop them a few weeks before your operation
  • While you're in hospital, you will reduce your chances of a blood clot if you:
  • drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
  • wear your compression stockings day and night (except when you're washing)
  • wear any other compression devices you've been given
  • take any blood-thinning medicines you've been prescribed
  • get up and move around as soon as you're advised to


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All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.