Deep Vein Thrombosis
One of the risks of hip replacement or knee replacement surgery is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious condition in which a blood clot develops in a vein deep within the body. Such clots are at risk of breaking away and traveling to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
DVT can also block blood flow in the veins, leading to pooling that causes swelling, pain and permanent damage to the legs.
Although DVT can occur in any deep vein, blood clots most frequently develop in the lower extremities. This means patients who have had joint replacement surgery are at greater risk of clots.
Deep vein thrombosis can pose a serious threat to health. Pieces of a clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal soon after it occurs. Deep vein thrombosis can also block blood flow in the veins, causing the blood to pool. This can cause swelling, pain, and permanent damage to the leg called post-thrombotic syndrome.
Risk factors that may contribute to DVT include, but are not limited to:
An inherited tendency toward blood clots
Being older than 60
Having Type A blood
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of deep vein thrombosis. including:
Hip or leg surgery
Long periods of sitting, such as while traveling or on bed rest
Birth control pills
Certain diseases and conditions, such as varicose veins or arterial diseases
A previous blood clot
DVT doesn't always have symptoms. In fact, it can occur without symptoms about 50 percent of the time. When there are symptoms, they can include:
Swelling in the leg
Red, discolored or white skin
A cord in a leg vein that can be felt
Rapid heart beat
More visible surface veins
Dull ache, tightness, tenderness or pain in the leg
If you have any symptoms that concern you, call your doctor immediately.
The goal of treatment is to prevent the clot from growing, to ensure that it doesn't break off and travel through the veins to the lungs, and to help reduce the possibility of another blood clot forming.
Treatment may include medications such as:
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants), which help keep the clot from growing and prevents others from forming.
- Fibrinolytics, which are known as "clot busters" for their ability to destroy a clot within one or two days.
- Thrombin inhibitors, which can prevent new clots from forming
Preventing deep vein thrombosis is important to prevent pulmonary embolism, which can lead to serious complications, including death.
When you must sit for longer than four hours, take the following steps to prevent clots from forming:
- Stand up and walk when you are able
- Try to move at least once an hour
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol
After surgery, other preventive measures may include:
Getting up and moving as soon as possible, as movement can help to prevent clots from forming by stimulating blood circulation
A pneumatic compression device, which looks like a special fitted sleeve, placed on the legs to help keep blood moving during some types of surgery
Wearing elastic stockings to reduce swelling and promote circulation
To learn more, call 714-456-7012 or schedule an appointment online ›