What You Need to Know About DVT’s

DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, and it describes the presence of coagulated blood in one of the deep veins, or blood vessels which return blood to the heart.  DVT’s can occur throughout the body, but are most known for their manifestations in the lower extremities, like the legs. DVT’s are considered very prevalent affecting over 200,000 people each year in the US.

Although known to cause pain or discomfort, DVTs are truly worrisome due to their ability to result in potentially life-threatening emboli in the lungs.  90% of acute pulmonary embolisms are due to DVTs, and result in 25,000 deaths a year.

What are the signs and symptoms of DVT’s?

Early recognition and treatment of DVT is critical to avoid complications and saves lives.  This means getting to know what to look for.  Here are some signs to watch out for:

·         Unilateral limb pain and swelling

·         Leg pain

·         Tenderness

·         Can occur without symptoms

Who is at risk for DVT?

Because the signs and symptoms of DVT are vague, patient history is very important to diagnosis the condition. Risk factors can be classified at things that cause deep vein thrombosis. These include:

1.       Immobility: This can occur during long flights, or surgery and injury.  Pain can make one less likely to move about. This is one of the reasons it is so important to get up and moving after surgery. Similarly even if you break your leg, you have to stay active to reduce your risk of DVT.  Additionally injury can increase the bloods ability to form clots

2.       Hypercoagibility: This can occur due to the following things:

·         Cancer

·         Pregnancy

·         Hormonal contraceptives

·         Hormone replacement therapy

·         Increased age

·         Renal disease

3.       Damage to the vein lining: like in the case of atherosclerosis

4.       Other risk factors include obesity and smoking

For travelers on flights of 6 hours or more who have an increased risk for DVT it is recommended that there is:

o   frequent ambulation

o   calf muscle stretching

o   sitting in an aisle seat if possible

o   use of below-knee graduated compression stockings                    

Other forms of prevention include adequate hydration, moving around and even doing calf muscle exercises in your seat.  Additionally, unless specified by a physician, routine use of aspirin or anticoagulant therapy to prevent DVT in long-distance travelers is not recommended.  For people at high risk for DVT it is important to talk with a physician about establishing a proper anticoagulant regimen.