DVT (deep vein thrombosis or blood clot in the legs) is a common and quite serious condition that affects millions of people around the world every year. The good news is that the condition is relatively easy to prevent, with the right medical treatment and preventative measures.

Why is DVT such a concern?

DVT is an unpleasant and painful condition, typically occurring in the calf or thigh, with potentially serious complications. If a fragment of the blood clot were to break off and become lodged in the lung (pulmonary embolism, or PE) it could be fatal. PE is the cause of more unexpected deaths in hospital patients than any other.

Even a simple case of DVT will lead to long-term complications, including chronic leg ulcers that may fail to heal, for as many as 50% of patients [1].

Why does DVT occur?

When you have had an operation or illness, the blood can become thicker and stickier. This is the body's natural response, to ensure that wounds or areas of inflammation do not bleed excessively. The downside is that this response also encourages clots to form in the deep veins of the leg. And if you are less mobile, the blood circulation in your legs becomes more sluggish, which can also encourage clots to form. Which is why early mobility rehabilitation is so important after an operation or illness.

Who is at risk?

Some people are more prone to DVT, e.g. people in hospital who have had surgery, people who are unable to walk around and people with a genetic tendency, but it can happen to anyone.

What can I do to avoid DVT?

The main prevention measures focus on maintaining blood circulation; even if you cannot walk, there are other things you can do to help. But check with your clinician first, so that they can advise on suitable exercises for you.

Deep breathing.
This helps to draw blood into the chest, for better circulation, in addition to other benefits. 

Raising your legs.
Gravity helps the blood to flow from your legs more easily when placed on a footstool or when the foot of your bed is slightly raised. 

Leg exercises.
These can be done while you are in bed or sitting in a chair and are usually repeated several times an hour. It is important that you get up and start walking as soon as you are able.

Your clinician may also prescribe medication (tablets or injections) to reduce blood clotting and/or they might provide you with special elasticated or inflatable socks. Visit the section on treatment options [link to page] for more information. Or if you prefer to save this information to read later, download the ArjoHuntleigh® Patient Information Leaflet here.

References

1. Kahn SR, Solymoss S, Lamping DL et al. "Long-term Outcomes After Deep Vein Thrombosis: Postphlebitic Syndrome and Quality of Life." J Gen Intern Med. 2000; 15(6): 425–429.