Know Your Blood Clot Risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis Month
We’ve talked a lot about it being Brain Injury Awareness Month, but did you know that March is also Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Month? DVT is a serious medical condition – one that could lead to life-threatening complications – and being hurt in an accident can raise your risk of developing it.
DVT is the development of a blood clot in a “deep” vein of your body, such as a leg or arm, that partially or completely blocks the vein. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
The Deadly Consequences of DVT
DVT can have fatal complications. Nearly one-third of patients with deep vein thrombosis develop what’s called a pulmonary embolism, a condition in which a blood clot travels into the lungs, WebMD reported. Each year, an estimated 600,000 people die from pulmonary embolisms. Less common – but no less dangerous – is the risk of the clot traveling to the heart, causing a heart attack, or the brain, leading to a stroke. Approximately 30 percent – or, by some estimates, up to 60 percent – of DVT patients also develop a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome, a long-term condition characterized by pain, swelling, and discoloration.
What Raises Your Risks for a Blood Clot
Technically, a blood clot could happen to anyone, without an apparent cause. However, a number of risk factors for DVT are tied to accidents and injuries.
You might be at risk if you:
- Required the use of a central venous catheter
- Suffered paralysis as a result of a spinal cord injury
- Sustained any injury, including a broken bone, that diminished blood flow to any body part
- Underwent surgery that decreased blood flow to any body part
- Underwent surgery on your abdomen, calf, chest, hip, knee, or leg – including emergency trauma surgery or surgery to set a broken bone
- Underwent orthopedic surgery, or surgery to any part of your musculoskeletal system (including bones, nerves, joints, muscles, and tendons)
- Were forced to remain on bed rest for longer than three days as a result of your injury
You don’t have to sustain catastrophic physical damage to put you at risk of developing DVT. About eight percent – which may sound small, but translates to an estimated more than 70,000 people a year – of DVTs originated from minor leg injuries that never required a cast or immobilization, WebMD reported. Maybe you thought you were lucky to only suffer that sprained ankle or pulled muscle, but the frightening reality is that you might not be in the clear just yet.
What to Do If You Suspect a Blood Clot
Know the symptoms of DVT. Get medical help right away if you notice symptoms like the following:
- Pain, tenderness, or swelling in just one leg or thigh
- Redness or warmth in just one leg or thigh
About half of all blood clots never produce noticeable symptoms, but they can still lead to dangerous complications. If you suspect a blood clot for any reason, see your doctor or get emergency medical care immediately. Expect your physician to examine your leg, perform an ultrasound, and order blood tests to determine whether or not you have a blood clot.
If you have developed DVT, you will likely need to take a blood-thinner or anticoagulant medication like Heparin or Coumadin in either injection or pill format for months, possibly even longer. You also may need to be hospitalized for a few days. Depending on the circumstances, doctors may recommend that you wear a pressure stocking or compression stocking on your affected leg to prevent future clots. Some patients undergo surgery to remove an especially large clot or to insert a filter that will make sure the blood clot can’t move into your lungs.
After an accident, you may be so preoccupied with the major injuries you have already suffered that it’s easy to overlook additional risks, like the possibility of developing a blood clot. If you know you’re at risk because of the injuries you suffered or the medical interventions you endured, ask your doctor if there’s anything you can do to prevent a blood clot before it happens.