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About DVT

When you have had an operation or are acutely ill it is normal for the blood to become thicker and stickier. This is a natural response that ensures that wounds or areas of inflammation do not bleed excessively. But this makes it easier for a clot to form in the deep veins of the leg resulting in a DVT.

DVT is a potentially serious complication because a fragment of the blood clot can break off and become lodged in the lung (Pulmonary Embolism, or PE) and affect breathing. Sometimes the fragment is large enough to cause death. In the longer term, the blood clot can damage the vein and can lead to leg ulcers that may be difficult to treat.

What causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?

The circumstances in which a clot is most likely to occur are when:

  • Blood is stickier than it needs to be and clots faster to prevent the wound from bleeding.
  • The blood is moving slowly through the veins because of inactivity and bed rest.
  • The vein has some kind of blemish such as a varicose vein or scar from a previous injury.

The risk of deep vein thrombosis can be greatly minimised by:

  • Ensuring blood is only sticky enough to prevent wounds bleeding.
  • Keeping the blood moving in the vein and preventing stagnation.
  • Being aware of any damage to the vein.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can develop a DVT. The time you are most at risk is after surgery or injury. Being overweight, a smoker and over 40 years of age also increases your risk. People whose veins have been damaged are more at risk. This can happen in pregnancy and at childbirth, or through injury or surgery. You should tell your nurse or doctor if any of the following applies to you:

• Taking the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement
• Pregnant (or think you might be)
• Previous DVT or clotting abnormalities in your family.

Certain medical conditions such as heart failure, stroke and heart attack also increase your risk and the nurse or doctor will ask you questions about these and may take blood samples. You will then be advised on what to do.

Download the ArjoHuntleigh Patient Information Leaflet for Deep Vein Thrombosis



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