Going under the knife soon? If so, you’ve probably been warned about the link between surgery and deep vein thrombosis.A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that usually forms inside the veins in your legs. Once formed, it can become a dangerous obstacle for blood attempting to flow back to your heart and can even cause major damage to your veins. In some cases, the clot can travel through your blood and into your lungs; a potentially fatal event known as a pulmonary embolism.
The causes of DVT are vast; from sitting for too long, to pregnancy, to other risk factors like smoking or diabetes. But one of the most common catalysts for deep vein thrombosis is surgery.
Why? Because, during and after surgery, patients are more likely to be:
- Immobile, making them less equipped to maintain proper blood flow in the legs
- Dehydrated, lessening their ability to fight blood clots
- Under general anesthesia, which has been known to increase risk of developing DVT
For these reasons, your greatest risk for developing deep vein thrombosis comes within 10 days immediately following any major surgery.
Here’s what any surgery patient needs to know about how to identify, prevent, and treat deep vein thrombosis after surgery.
How to Prevent DVT After Surgery
Now that you’re aware of the DVT risks associated with surgery, it’s time to consult your doctor about how to prepare. Ask your doctor and/or surgeon to review your medical history and more accurately asses your risk for DVT.
If your risk is high, your surgeon may suggest:
- Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, to prevent clots
- Wearing a compression sleeve or similar accessory on your legs during or after the surgery
- Using local anesthesia instead of general
- A specific regimen of leg exercises or stretches to help with mobility and blood flow
Once the surgery is over and you’re in recovery, try:
- Elevating the foot of your bed to keep blood from pooling in the feet and legs
- Moving around as soon as your doctor clears you for activity
- Using a sequential compression device, like The Venowace, to keep blood flow strong and regular
Signs of DVT After Surgery
With any luck, your risk for developing DVT after surgery will be low, and the tips above will help to keep you healthy and get you back on your feet in no time! However, it’s still important to be able to identify when something’s wrong.
If you’ve recently had a major surgery, keep a watchful eye open for DVT symptoms, such as:
- Swelling in one or both legs
- Pain or tenderness in legs, especially when walking
- Unusually warm skin
- Visible surface veins
- Abnormal amounts of leg fatigue
- Bruises on the legs
- Blood in the urine, stool, or vomit
- Black or tarry stool
Consult your doctor or surgeon if you notice one or more of the above symptoms following your surgery. If you’re suffering from chest pain, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, coughing blood, or fainting, call 911 immediately.
How to Treat DVT After Surgery
If you do develop a deep vein thrombosis after surgery, don’t panic! DVT is highly treatable; your body will dissolve most blood clots over time. However, your doctor will still want to develop a treatment plan based on the severity of your condition and your medical background. According to WebMD, the main goals of treatment for deep vein thrombosis following surgery are:
- To prevent the blood clot from becoming larger
- To prevent the blood clot from traveling to the lungs
- To prevent pain, sores, and swelling in the affected legs
- And to prevent future blood clots
Typically, treatment for DVT involves a combination of anticoagulants (such as Heparin or Warfarin), elevation, compression, and exercise.
In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a thrombolytic agent in order to break up the clot. In this scenario, a catheter is inserted into a vein in your leg and guided directly to the clot. The clot busting drug is then applied directly to the affected area with minimal side effects.
In very rare and extreme circumstances, a surgery known as a venous thrombectomy may be required to remove a deep vein thrombosis.
Questions About DVT After Surgery?
For questions about your specific medical situation and surgery concerns, we strongly urge you to consult your own medical team before enacting any self-treatment or preventative measures.