Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

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 tendency.

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 further.

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, Clancy says.

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.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.