I’m currently doing research about a health condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Now as you’re reading this, many of you might be wondering what DVT is. That’s exactly why I’m doing this research.

DVT is a condition in which blood clots form in a persons extremities (usually their legs) when a person is immobile for a lengthy amount of time. This could be from a long airplane ride or from being in bed after an injury or surgery. DVT manifests as redness, warmth, and pain in the affected leg. The leg also becomes swollen and larger than the other, unaffected leg.  There are many complications that can occur from DVT.  One of them is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), and it occurs when a piece of the blood clot breaks off and travels to a person’s lungs. The person may cough, have some shortness of breath, or appear to have pneumonia-like symptoms. Very often these symptoms are mild, but if this complication is not recognized and treated immediately, it is often fatal.

DVT is a health issue that hits extremely close to home for me. Several years ago my dad suffered a deep vein thrombosis after dislocating his knee. He also developed a pulmonary embolism. When my dad left the hospital after having his knee splinted, the doctors told him to sit still and not to move for fear of re-dislocating it. My dad did exactly that. None of the doctors or nurses who saw him that afternoon thought to tell him or my mom that he should wiggle his toes to keep the blood moving. Both of my parents are highly educated, and neither one of them had known that he was at risk for such serious complications.

Fortunately for my family and I, after a lengthy recovery today my dad is happy and healthy. However this is not the case for many other families. Every single year in the US, DVT and PE kill between 60,000-100,000 people (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/data.html). That is more people than AIDS, car accidents, and breast cancer COMBINED.

It is my hypothesis that if more people in the general public were aware of the condition, and knew about the signs and symptoms that hopefully that number would be less. My goal is to develop a public education campaign to increase knowledge about this condition. DVT and it’s complications are unlike cancer and other diseases. Many other diseases have genetic factors that predispose a person to it and although a healthy lifestyle helps, many diseases are still unpreventable. I’m going to be bold enough to say that DVT is 100% preventable. There are medications and stockings that can decrease clotting in addition to simple things like ankle exercises. There is no reason for DVT/PE to be the leading cause of preventable deaths among patients while they are in the hospital (http://www.clotcare.com/dvt_pe_blood_clot_patient_stories.aspx).