Last week, I attended the National Thrombosis Conference. This study day looks at all aspects of blood clots and health. The same week, I heard the sad news of Lisa Calladine who at the age of 36 developed a deep vein thrombosis and subsequently died of clots on the lung -a pulmonary embolus.
My condolences go to her family. I do not know the full facts of her case- I read about Lisa on line but based on what I read and what I learnt at the conference, it is clear that we cannot always rely on health professionals to get it right and that increased public awareness is important in dealing with DVT and pulmonary embolism.
So here are 7 things I think everyone should know.
- Firstly, anyone can get a deep vein thrombosis. Lisa was young, fit and apparently out of the blue she developed a painful swelling of her leg. Apparently, she was told she was too young and fit to have a DVT. As it turned out, this is incorrect. Anyone of any age can get a DVT.
- Next, clots in the deep veins of the legs can dislodge and travel to the lungs – process called pulmonary embolism, often abbreviated to PE. This is a serious condition and without treatment 10% of people with PE will die. Prompt recognition of DVT and treatment with blood thinning medication – anticoagulants will prevent PE.
- Thirdly, the main risk factor Deep Vein Thrombosis is admission to hospital. Nearly 2/3 of new DVTs happen in hospital or within 90 days of being admitted to hospital. So whenever you are admitted to hospital, you should be assessed and measures taken to prevent DVT. Most people think of DVTs on planes but actually you are 1000 times more likely to develop a DVT in hospital than on a plane. Furthermore, 25% of people having major surgery are at risk of developing blood clots. These clots are preventable with DVT prophylaxis such as blood thinning injections and stockings.
- Although anyone can get a clot, older people are a higher risk. The risk is increased by 10 times in people over aged 80 years.
- The risk of DVT is also increased during pregnancy. Pregnant women are 5 times more likely to get a DVT than other women of the same age.
- Overweight people have a 200% higher chance of developing a DVT.
- Finally, People receiving treatment for cancer are at increased risk of developing clots.
So, what should you do with this information? Well here’s my advice.
- Whenever you are admitted to hospital, ask about DVT, ask about your risk of developing one, and ask what measures the doctors and nurses are taking to reduce your risk. Most DVTs occur in hospital and they can be prevented.
- Secondly, if you are elderly, pregnant, overweight or have cancer or some other health problems and you become unwell, ask about DVT and ask to be checked for DVT and pulmonary embolism. If you have leg swelling or shortness of breath, ask about DVT and ask to be checked for DVT and pulmonary embolism.
- Finally if you are not satisfied ask for a second opinion or consider attending the emergency department of your local hospital. Share your concerns, ask about DVT and ask to be checked for DVT and pulmonary embolism. That means having a blood test called D-Dimer and a leg ultrasound scan.
Now, if you’re worried about your veins and would like a confidential chat please do get in touch. Our advisors are very happy to offer simple advice by telephone or email for free and without obligation. You can call and book an appointment direct without a referral from your GP on 01935 873951.