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How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Preventing a deep vein thrombosis, also known as a DVT, is vital. A DVT is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the legs most commonly, but can also occur in the veins of the upper extremities. That's because the blood clot, which usually forms in a calf or thigh deep veins, can partially or completely block blood flow back to the heart and cause damage to the one-way valves in the veins. The clot can also break free and travel through your blood to major organs, such as your lungs -- which can be fatal. This is called a pulmonary embolism.

Doctors diagnose DVT in 600,000 Americans each year. One out of 100 of these people die. If you're at risk, there is much you can do to prevent DVT.

Recommended Related to DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

Taking Blood Thinners for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and Xarelto (rivaroxaban)are types of blood thinners (anticoagulants) commonly used in deep vein thrombosis treatment. Though they're called blood thinners, these DVT treatments do not actually thin your blood; rather, they can keep existing blood clots from getting larger or prevent new ones from forming. They do this by preventing the production of certain proteins needed for blood to clot.

Read the Taking Blood Thinners for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) article > >

DVT Prevention: Healthy Lifestyle and Regular Checkups

To lower your risk and help prevent DVT, take these steps:

  • Maintain an active lifestyle and exercise regularly -- daily, if possible. Walking, swimming, and bicycling are all great activities.
  • Manage your weight with exercise as well as by eating a healthy diet.
  • If you smoke, quit! Nicotine therapy (in patches, gums, or sprays) and support groups can make this much easier to do.
  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly; take steps to lower it, if necessary.
  • Report any family or personal history of blood-clotting problems to your doctor.
  • Discuss alternatives to birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy with your doctor.
  • If you are on an airplane for more than 4 hours, either walk or do leg stretches in your seat and also stay well-hydrated and avoid alcohol consumption.

During pregnancy, ask your doctor what you can do to help prevent DVT.

Preventing DVT After Surgery or While Bedridden

If you need surgery, your surgeon will review your medical history to help assess your risk for DVT and determine whether you need aggressive measures to prevent it.

Your DVT risk may begin with becoming immobile and continue for several months following surgery. However, in some cases, your risk is greatest right after surgery and about 10 days afterward.

Researchers continue to look at the best ways to prevent DVT after surgery. For example, some studies show that using regional anesthesia instead of general anesthesia, when possible, can decrease your DVT risk.

Here are other measures your doctor may suggest to help prevent DVT:

  • Take any blood thinners (anticoagulants) your doctor prescribes before or right after surgery. These may include: 
    • Heparin
    • Warfarin, which is also called Coumadin. 
    • Xarelto (rivaroxaban) 
  • Wear a sleeve-like device on your legs during surgery to compress your legs and keep blood flowing through your veins.
  • Elevate the foot of your bed.
  • Get up and move as soon as you can after surgery, or after you've been ill.
  • Take pain medicine as prescribed to make it easier to move around.

Also to prevent DVT, do any leg exercises your doctor or other health care provider prescribes. These may include leg lifts and gentle foot and ankle exercises.

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