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Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Prevention

The formation of a blood clot in a deep vein of the leg or lower pelvis. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected area. Also called DVT. NIH - National Cancer Institute

About Preventing DVT

You can take steps to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). If you're at risk for these conditions:

  • See your doctor for regular checkups.
  • Take all medicines as your doctor prescribes.
  • Get out of bed and move around as soon as possible after surgery or illness (as your doctor recommends). Moving around lowers your chance of developing a blood clot.
  • Exercise your lower leg muscles during long trips. This helps prevent blood clots from forming.

If you've had DVT or PE before, you can help prevent future blood clots. Follow the steps above and:

  • Take all medicines that your doctor prescribes to prevent or treat blood clots
  • Follow up with your doctor for tests and treatment
  • Use compression stockings as your doctor directs to prevent leg swelling

Contact your doctor at once if you have any signs or symptoms of DVT or PE. For more information, go to "What Are the Signs and Symptoms... Read more about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Prevention

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Review on the value of graduated elastic compression stockings after deep vein thrombosis

This review concluded that graduated elastic compression stockings can prevent post-thrombotic syndrome after deep vein thrombosis, whereas the evidence for recurrent deep vein thrombosis is inconclusive. Given the inadequate reporting of review procedures, small number of included studies, clinical variability of the studies and possibly inappropriate statistical methods, the conclusions must be regarded with caution.

Knee versus thigh length graduated compression stockings for prevention of deep venous thrombosis: a systematic review

This review evaluated the effectiveness of knee-length elastic stockings for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis in different populations. The authors concluded that knee-length stockings are effective in reducing risk in hospitalised and long haul flight populations. Differences between the included studies, and other limitations, mean that the reliability of these conclusions is unclear.

Venous Thromboembolic Diseases: The Management of Venous Thromboembolic Diseases and the Role of Thrombophilia Testing [Internet]

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition in which a blood clot (a thrombus) forms in a vein and then dislodges to travel in the blood (an embolus). A venous thrombus most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs or pelvis; this is then called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood flow through the affected vein can be limited by the clot, and it can cause swelling and pain in the leg. If it dislodges and travels to the lungs, to the pulmonary arteries, it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), which in some cases may be fatal. VTE as a term includes both DVT and PE. Major risk factors for VTE include a prior history of DVT, age over 60 years, surgery, obesity, prolonged travel, acute medical illness, cancer, immobility, thrombophilia (an abnormal tendency for the blood to clot) and pregnancy.

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Summaries for consumers

Elastic compression stockings for prevention of deep vein thrombosis during a hospital stay

Hospital patients can develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs and pelvic veins immediately after surgery or if they are not mobile because of a medical illness. Symptoms vary from none to pain and swelling in the legs. A blood clot can move from the leg to the lungs with the danger of pulmonary embolism and death. Usually the DVT clears up or has long term effects such as high venous pressure in the leg, leg pain, swelling, darkening of the skin or inflammation.

Combined intermittent pneumatic leg compression and medication for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in high‐risk patients

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism, or venous thromboembolism, are possible complications of surgery and trauma. These complications extend hospital stay and are associated with long‐term disability and death. Patients undergoing total hip or knee replacement surgery or surgery for colorectal cancer are at high risk of venous thromboembolism. Sluggish venous blood flow, increased blood clotting and blood vessel endothelial injury are contributing factors. Treating more than one of these causes may improve prevention. Mechanical intermittent pneumatic leg compression reduces venous stasis while medications such as aspirin and anticoagulants such as low molecular weight heparin reduce blood clotting. The medications can also increase the risk of bleeding.

New types of anticoagulants to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following total hip or knee replacement surgery

Venous thromboembolism is the presence of a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel within the venous system; it includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) which can be fatal. Venous thromboembolism occurs in 44% to 90% of those patients who undergo total hip or knee replacement and who do not receive anticoagulants (blood thinning drugs).

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More about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Prevention

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Other terms to know:
Pulmonary Embolism, Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)

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