VENOUS THROMBOEMBOLISM PREVENTION
Venous thromboembolism is a condition in which a blood clot (thrombus) develops in the body. A thrombus usually occurs in a deep vein in the leg or the pelvis (DVT), but it can also occur in the arm. Sometimes, pieces of a thrombus can break off from its original place of development and travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. When that happens, the thrombus is called an embolus. An embolus that travels to one or both lungs is called a pulmonary embolism. An embolism can block the blood flow in the blood vessels of other organs as well.
Venous thromboembolism is a serious health condition that can cause disability or death. It is very important to get help right away and to not ignore symptoms.
- Exercise regularly. Take a brisk 30 minute walk every day. Staying active and moving around can help you to prevent blood clots.
- Avoid sitting or lying in bed for long periods of time without moving your legs. Change your position often, especially during long-distance travel (over 4 hours).
- If you are a woman who is over 35 years of age, avoid unnecessary use of medicines that contain oestrogen. These include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.
- Do not smoke, especially if you take oestrogen medicines. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Ask your health care provider or dietitian if there are foods that you should avoid.
- Maintain a weight that is appropriate for your height. Ask your health care provider what weight is healthy for you.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing. Avoid constrictive or tight clothing around your legs or waist.
- Try not to bump or injure your legs. Avoid crossing your legs when you are sitting.
- Do not use pillows under your knees while lying down unless told by your health care provider.
- Wear support hose (compression stockings or TED hose) as told by your health care provider Compression stockings increase blood flow in your legs and can help prevent blood clots.Do not let them bunch up when you are wearing them.
Long-distance travel (over 4 hours) can increase the risk of a venous thromboembolism. To prevent venous thromboembolism when traveling:
- Exercise your legs every hour by standing, stretching, and bending and straightening your legs. If you are traveling by airplane, train, or bus, walk up and down the aisle as often as possible to get your blood moving. If you are traveling by car, stop and get out of the car every hour to exercise your legs and stretch. Other types of exercise might include:
- Keeping your feet flat on the ground and raising your toes.
- Switching from tightening the muscles in your calves and thighs to relaxing those same muscles while you are sitting.
- Pointing and flexing your feet at the ankle joints while you are sitting.
- Stay well hydrated while traveling. Drink enough water to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
- Avoid drinking alcohol during long travel.
Generally, it is not recommended that you take medicines to prevent DVT during routine travel.
A venous thromboembolism may be prevented by taking medicines that are prescribed to prevent blood clots (anticoagulants). You can also help to prevent venous thromboembolism while in the hospital by taking these actions:
- Get out of bed and walk. Ask your health care provider if this is safe for you to do.
- Request the use of a sequential compression device (SCD). This is a machine that pumps air into compression sleeves that are wrapped around your legs.
- Request the use of compression stockings, which are tight, elastic stockings that apply pressure to the lower legs. Compression stockings are sometimes used with SCDs.
Understand that there is an increased risk for venous thromboembolism for the first 4–6 weeks after surgery. During this time:
- Avoid long-distance travel (over 4 hours). If you must travel during this time, ask your health care provider about additional preventive actions that you can take. These might include exercising your arms and legs every hour while you travel.
- Avoid sitting or lying still for too long. If possible, get up and walk around one time every hour. Ask your health care provider when this is safe for you to do.
- You have new or increased pain, swelling, or redness in an arm or leg.
- You have numbness or tingling in an arm or leg.
- You have shortness of breath while active or at rest.
- You have chest pain.
- You have a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- You feel light-headed or dizzy.
- You cough up blood.
- You notice blood in your vomit, bowel movement, or urine.
These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.