DVT- know your risk

Do you know what your risk of getting a Deep Vein Thrombosis is?

Now before you zone out thinking this is something that is unlikely to affect you, I’ve treated people young and old, sedentary and elite athletes, males and females who have succumbed to DVT’s. It can be a very serious condition so I will give a brief run down on what it is, the risk factors, signs and management.

DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein (often in a leg but can also be in an arm). Whilst the DVT itself can be uncomfortable and create issues locally, it becomes very dangerous when part of the (or the whole) clot detaches and travels through the body where in life threatening cases it can lodge in one of the blood vessels in your lungs, seriously affecting lung and heart function.

Risk factors of DVT are quite diverse;

·       Immobility is one of the biggest risk factors due to prolonged pooling of blood when you are not moving. This is common especially after surgery or an injury where there is increased bleeding in the area and then on top of this either bed rest or immobilisation in a splint or cast. The majority of DVT’s I have seen are after Total Knee Replacement and after ankle/foot surgery where the patient is put in a CamBoot for prolonged periods
·       A family history of blood clots which tends to go hand in hand with blood clotting disorders is another risk factor for DVT
·       Health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, infection and a history of stroke as well as smoking, being overweight and pregnancy all increase the likelihood of blood pooling and clotting
·       Medications such as some oral contraceptive pills may cause increased blood clotting and have been thought to be responsible for a number of DVT related strokes and deaths

Signs and symptoms of DVT can be easy to pick up with many signs and symptoms but occasionally people do not present with these features. Typical indicators that you have a DVT include;

·       Swelling which often starts in the calf but may spread down into the ankle and foot
·       Pain in the area where the clot is (most commonly the back of the calf)
·       Heat and redness
·       Loss of function

As you can see these area all quite common signs post surgery so this is where it can be hard to pick-up DVT’s early.

Management can be split into a couple of areas. Often if you have been in hospital and you are at risk of a DVT, the medical staff will administer blood thinning medication, apply compression stockings and calf pump machines to minimise DVT’s and monitor you for any signs. It is also one of the reasons staff will get you up post-surgery to walk as soon as possible.

If we pick it up in the clinic we will refer you through your GP for an appointment that day to get a referral for an ultrasound called a Doppler scan which looks at blood flow. If a DVT is detected then you will be managed medically from that point. If the time of day means we are unable to get you into your GP then we send you straight to Emergency.

DVT’s can be very serious so the important thing is to be informed; know your risk, know the signs and symptoms and know what to do if you suspect you have one.