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Deep Vein Thrombosis - A Ticking Time Bomb

  • Publish Date : 2011/05/04
  • Author : American College of Emergency Physicians


Emergency physicians issue warning about the serious dangers associated with deep vein thrombosis.

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As temperatures warm and travel picks up around the country, the nation's emergency physicians issue a warning about the serious dangers associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DVT is a condition occurring when blood clots form in a vein located in a person's lower leg and thigh.

"DVT is very dangerous and can do severe damage to a person's body and if the clot breaks off and travels to the lung, it can be fatal," said Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Basically, when a blood clot breaks loose in the vein and begins moving through a person's bloodstream, it becomes an embolism, which is a mass that can get stuck in the lung depriving the body of oxygen."

Many remember the high-profile NBC News anchor David Bloom, who in 2003 died suddenly from DVT and a pulmonary embolism while he was covering the war in Iraq. More recently, tennis star Serena Williams was treated for a blood clot that was in her lung.

Fast facts about DVT:

  • Estimates suggest that 300,000 to 600,000 Americans have DVT each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • 60,000 to 100,000 of those people die as a result of having DVT and embolism.
  • Those who are 60 years of age and older are at the greatest risk of having DVT. That risk increases with age.

What are the symptoms of DVT

  • Swelling in one leg.
  • Increased warmth in one leg.
  • Leg pain or increased sensitivity in one leg.
  • If you notice changes in skin color, especially if it's increased redness in one leg.

"If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor or visit your local emergency department," said Dr. Schneider. "Put it this way "think of DVT as a ticking time bomb in your body and at any moment, it could go off unless it is diagnosed and properly treated." The tendency to form blood clots is in some cases hereditary. If several of your family members have DVT, you should mention that to your doctor.

What causes DVT

Many factors can cause or contribute to DVT. According to the National Institute of Health, the most common ones include:

  • Long periods of limited or no mobility, including bed rest, long car rides, flights, long or long office meetings, etc.
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Obesity
  • Fractures in the pelvis or legs
  • Medications such as estrogen and birth control pills
  • Recent surgery, especially if it was hip, knee or female reproductive organ surgery
  • Cancer
  • After a pacemaker catheter is surgically implanted
  • Heart failure

How can you prevent DVT

  • Move and stretch your legs often, especially during long flights or car trips.
  • If you work in an office environment where you sit most of the day, make a point to get up and walk around several times a day.
  • Doctors may prescribe blood thinner medications to help prevent DVT for those who may be considered high-risk.
  • Consult with your doctor or emergency physician on the best ways to help you stay healthy.

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

For more information on DVT or other health-related topics, please go to www.EmergencyCareForYou.org

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