- Blood clot
- Types and causes of blood clots
- What risk factors contribute to blood clots?
- What are the signs and symptoms of blood clots?
- What kinds of blood clot complications can occur?
- How are blood clots diagnosed?
- What treatment procedures are involved in dealing with blood clots?
- Are there ways to prevent blood clots and what are the associated complications?
- Blood clot FAQs
The prevention of blood clots may not always be possible, as some develop and show no symptoms until a complication arises, but measures to reduce risk factors are certainly possible.
Measures which can be taken to alleviate risk and thus potentially prevent blood clots include:
- For arterial thrombosis: Reduce risk for vascular or arterial disease - plaque build-up (and potential rupture) and hardening of the arteries by maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, or managing diabetes, and refraining from or ceasing smoking14 . A person with a family or personal history of heart attack or stroke should also be vigilant and ensure that a healthy lifestyle is maintained and regular medical check-ups are also kept.
- For venous thrombosis: Risk can be reduced by moving around regularly and not indulging a sedentary lifestyle (if one is able to move independently). It is important to move around and stimulate healthy blood circulation, especially when travelling. During long-haul travel, by train, car or aeroplane, it is important to move and stretch every hour or so, especially if travelling for longer than 4 consecutive hours at a time. Those unable to move (for example following a surgery or who are paralysed) may be encouraged to take low doses of blood thinning medications15 or wear compression stockings to prevent blood pooling and the development of clots. Other risk reducing factors for clot prevention include losing weight (if applicable – i.e. if one is overweight or obese), drinking plenty of water (too little fluid in the body / dehydration can cause thickening of blood in the body), quit smoking (if applicable), adopt an anti-inflammatory diet which is rich in fruits and vegetables, omega-3 and vitamin E, as well as exercise regularly.
Why are blood clots a risk following any kind of surgery?
A lack of muscle movement following any kind of surgical procedure can place a person at risk of developing DVT. This temporary immobility may result in slowed blood flow, and cause blood pooling in the lower limbs, and the development of a thrombus (clot). Muscle movement (contractions in the calf muscles) are essential for returning blood up the legs, to the heart.
Surgical procedures also cause blood to come into contact with foreign matter. Some forms of foreign matter are released into the blood and include fat, collagen or tissue debris. The body’s response to this contact is often blood thickening which results in coagulation. Soft tissue movement or removal can also encourage this process and lead to the formation of blood clots.
Before any type of surgical procedure is performed a doctor will have discussed a full medical history with a patient and also assess any potential risk factors present. He or she will list any and all medications and supplements a patient may be taking, for any reason (including herbal products) in order to assess risk factors as well.
In some instances, taking aspirin prior to surgery can help to prevent the formation of blood clots, during and after the procedure but this should always only be done upon the treating doctor or surgeon’s orders. Other blood thinning medications may also be prescribed beforehand if deemed necessary.
Following surgery, a medical team will take necessary precautions with post-op care to reduce the risk of blood clots developing during the recovery process. This is done by elevating the limbs so as to improve blood circulation. Those at high risk of clots post-op may be prescribed clot-dissolving medications (thrombolytics) or anticoagulants, and be required to wear compression stockings. A series of ultrasound scans may also be recommended for a period of time to ensure that no clots have developed, and if a thrombus has formed, it will be treated quickly. Lifestyle changes a doctor deems necessary may also be advised once a patient is able to resume normal activity.
14. HealthDirect. December 2017. Thrombosis: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/thrombosis [Accessed 28.08.2018]
15. MedlinePlus. August 2018. Blood Thinners: https://medlineplus.gov/bloodthinners.html [Accessed 28.08.2018]