Patient Education

Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

  • DVT us a blood clot that forms inside a dep vein in the leg. It can lead to a much more serious health problem known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).

What is a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

  • A PE occurs when a blood clot travels through the veins and blocks a major blood vessel leading to the lungs. This is very dangerous and may lead to death.

Who is at risk for DVT?

Some risk factors for DVT include:

  • Inactivity
  • Recent surgery
  • Surgery lasting longer than one hour
  • Previous heart attack or heart disease
  • Previous DVT
  • Increased age
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Birth control pills
  • Smoking
  • Infection or injury
  • Recent airplane travel

Patient with any concerns to these risk factors should discuss them with a doctor.

Preventing DVT and PE

  • Sequential compression devices (SCD) are stockings that pump air through special sleeves to squeeze the lower leg muscles to improve blood flow. These should be kept on at all times except when patients are walking.
  • Doctors may order special medications for patients used in prevention of these conditions. Patients should ask their nurse or doctor for more information about any medications they are taking.
  • Once approved by their doctor, patients are encouraged to walk frequently. Patients are advised to turn, cough and breathe deeply at least once every hour while awake in bed.
  • Patients can use some simple leg exercises in bed, such as
    • Lying on back and tightening thighs and pushing the back of their knees to the bed and hold for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times. Repeat this at least every hour.
    • Relax and straighten legs, point toes towards head of the bed, then toward the foot of the bed. Repeat this at least 10 times every hour.
    • Using the feet, make circles with legs relaxed on the bed, move ankles in small circles, repeat 10 times every hour.
  • Patients should drink plenty of fluids once this is approved by their doctor.

Patient Stories

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Patient Stories

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