Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

What is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis, better known as DVT, is the formation of a blood clot in a vein that is deep inside part of the body, usually the legs. During your stay at Sky Ridge we want to help you minimize your risk for DVT and be aware of the warning signs.

Causes and Risk Factors

DVT mainly affects the large veins in the lower leg and thigh. The clot can block blood flow and cause swelling and pain. When a clot breaks off and moves through the bloodstream, this is called an embolism. An embolism can get stuck in the brain, lungs, heart, or other area, leading to severe damage.

Blood clots may form when something slows or changes the flow of blood in the veins. Risk factors include:

  • After a pacemaker catheter has been passed through the vein in the groin
  • Bed rest
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Fractures in the pelvis or legs
  • Giving birth within the last six months
  • Heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Recent surgery (especially hip, knee or female pelvic surgery)


You’re also more likely to develop DVT if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Blood that is more likely to clot (hypercoagulability)
  • Cancer
  • Taking estrogen or birth control pills. This risk is even higher if you smoke.

 
DVT is most common in adults over age 60, but can occur at any age. Sitting for long periods when traveling can increase the risk of DVT. This is most likely when one or more of the risk factors are also present.

How to Prevent DVT?

  • Wear the pressure stockings your doctor prescribed. They will improve blood flow in your legs and reduce your risk for blood clots.
  • Your doctor may prescribe blood thinners to help prevent DVT before surgery.
  • Move your legs often during long plane rides, car trips and other situations in which you are sitting or lying down for long periods of time can also help prevent DVT.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, quit. Women who are taking birth control pills or estrogen should stop smoking.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Changes in skin color (redness) in one leg
  • Increased warmth in one leg
  • Leg pain in one leg
  • Leg tenderness in one leg
  • Skin that feels warm to the touch
  • Swelling (edema) of one leg

Treatment

If you develop DVT, your healthcare provider will give you medicine to thin your blood (called an anticoagulant). This will keep more clots from forming or old ones from getting bigger. These drugs cannot dissolve existing clots.

Heparin is usually the first drug given through an IV. Coumadin is also started along with heparin. When you are taking Coumadin, you are more likely to bleed, even from activities you have always done. In addition, you will be given a pressure stocking to wear on your leg or legs. A pressure stocking improves blood flow in your legs and reduces your risk for blood clots. It is important to wear these every day.

What Do I Do if I Have Symptoms?

If you notice any of the symptoms of DVT please call your nurse immediately. If you or your family members notice signs after you are discharged from the hospital, go to the Emergency Department particularly if you develop chest pain, have difficulty breathing, are coughing blood, faint or display other severe symptoms.

We encourage you and your family members to be an active part of your healthcare team. Understanding the risk factors and learning about the signs and symptoms will help minimize your chances of developing DVT.