Every year, an estimated 300,000 people die in the United States due to blood clots. Blood clots are an important part of healing from a cut, scratch or even surgery. Red blood cells collect near the wound and prevent bleeding. Some clots however, can form when a person becomes immobilized and muscles aren’t regularly contracting to push blood back to the heart. The blood becomes stagnant and can form small clots that become larger over time. When detected, a clot near the skin’s surface can be easily treated. But what if the clot has formed in a vein deep inside the body? This is a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
DVT is a common and extremely dangerous condition in which a blood clot forms in a large vein, usually in the leg, that partially or completely blocks circulation. If the clot breaks free and travels through the bloodstream, it can reach the lungs and block a blood vessel there. This blockage is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal within hours. Symptoms of DVT include: pain, swelling, redness, warmness, and engorged superficial veins.
Normally, our activity causes our muscles to circulate blood and prevent the formation of blood clots. When we become inactive, on a long plane ride or when we are ill, we are more likely to form blood clots. If you are taking a long flight, http://www.flighthealth.org/preventing-dvt.htm has some simple precautions that you can take to minimize your chances of developing blood clots. If you are ill or injured, you also need to take precautions.
While you are recovering and very inactive, your physician may prescribe medications to prevent blood clot formation. But, a key precaution you can take is to stay as active as possible, to keep your muscles moving. This can include simple leg exercises in the bed, walking in circles around the bed or couch, as well as more strenuous exercise with a nurse or physical therapist.
Blood clots can be a life-threatening complication. Prevention is very important and there’s a lot patients and nurses can do to prevent blood clots.
If you’d like to learn more about DVT and what’s being done to prevent it I encourage you to look into the ‘NationalConsensusStandardsforthePreventionandCareofDeepVeinThrombosis (DVT)’ project between The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum. It began in January 2005 to establish nationwide preventive standards and publicly reported metrics to track progress.