Common Problems Patients Face in the Hospital
Understand your hospital risks and ask these vital questions -- to keep those risks in check.
Hospital Risk No. 4: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
"DVT, it clearly ranks as one of the more significant risks after
surgery," Clancy tells WebMD.
DVT -- or deep vein thrombosis -- is the development of a blood clot,
typically deep in the veins of the leg. If the clot breaks free and travels
through the bloodstream, it can get lodged in the arteries of the lungs,
cutting off the blood's supply of oxygen. This complication, called a pulmonary
embolism, can be fatal.
Surgery significantly increases your risks of DVT for several reasons. If
you're immobile in bed, your circulation gets worse. That makes the blood more
likely to pool and clot in your legs. Also the blood vessels in your legs can
become very "relaxed" during the anesthesia used for surgery and the
blood can slow down its movement enough to form a clot, especially if the
vessel has had prior damage (for example, by way of a previous history of a
broken leg) . The trauma of surgery itself also increases the blood's clotting
Without preventative treatment, the odds of getting DVT after a prolonged
major surgery are 25%. For some surgeries, like joint replacement, the odds of
DVT are more than 50%.
Fortunately, careful use of blood thinners can slash the risk of DVT without
increasing your risk of bleeding. But as effective and safe as this
preventative treatment is, studies have shown that these precautions are often
ignored. So you should always ask about it.
"Never be afraid to ask about the risk of DVT after your specific
surgery," says Angood. "Ask whether you will be getting preventative
treatment and for how long."
Another method of DVT prevention is something you can do on your own.
"The sooner you can start moving around, the lower your risk of DVT,"
Clancy says. Stretching and -- when your doctor gives you the OK, getting up
and walking -- will get your circulation back to normal.
Hospital Risk No. 5: Bleeding After Surgery
While clotting is a risk for DVT, uncontrolled bleeding after surgery causes
problems of its own. However, there's good news. "Bleeding after surgery is
not as much of a problem as it once was," Griffin says, thanks to improved
surgical techniques. Still, you should make an effort to lower the risks
That starts with making certain that your doctor knows every medication --
vitamins, supplements, or homeopathic medication -- that you use. Common
medicines -- like the painkillers aspirin and ibuprofen -- can thin your blood,
increasing the risk of bleeding. Your doctor will probably tell you to stop
taking any medicine that might have this effect a week or two before surgery,
If you forget and take one of these drugs, say something. "There's a
simple blood test that can be done to check if your blood is too thin for
surgery," says Griffin. "But your doctor might not think to do the test
unless you tell him or her."
Also mention if you've ever had excessive bleeding before, even for
something minor, like the removal of wisdom teeth. "The biggest predictor
of serious bleeding after surgery is having bled after surgery before,"
says Clancy. If your surgeon knows, he or she can take precautions.