Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are easily preventable conditions. Here are the simple steps:
- Leg exercises — Simple ankle rolls or wiggling of the toes keeps the blood flowing. It helps prevent it from pooling and stops clots from forming.
- Walking — Just like leg exercises, walking gets the blood moving. If you’re on a long plane ride take a walk to the bathroom, or if it’s a car ride, stop in a rest area every few hours too to get out and move around.
- Avoid immobility — If you sit at a desk everyday at work, get up every hour or two and go for a two minute walk around the office.
- Hydration — Dehydration increases your chances of developing blood clots. Remember, 8 glasses of water per day!
- “Blood thinners” — Your doctor may prescribe anticoagulant medications (warfarin/Coumadin, Lovenox) if you have had a clot before or are going to be in a situation (such as post-surgery) where you may be at increased risk.
- Compression stockings/TEDs — These look like nylons/knee socks and keep the blood moving. They may feel tight and some people dislike this, but they are so important and they work!
- Sequential compression devices — Mechanical devices that inflate and deflate at certain time intervals to keep blood flowing adequately. They are often used in hospitals during surgery and for a short time afterwards. Lots of people compare the feeling of them to a blood pressure cuff inflating.
- Inferior vena cava filters — These are special filters (that resemble little umbrellas) that are used in some people who have been diagnosed with a DVT. They stop any pieces of the clot that may break off from migrating up to the heart, lungs, or brain.
- Be cautious if you have risk factors — If you have any risk factors, take these simple steps (especially #1-4, which you can do without a doctor) to reduce your chances of developing a blood clot. Also, talk to you doctor about other methods to protect yourself or a loved one.
- If you have any suspected signs and symptoms of a DVT, seek medical attention immediately. If you know that you have a DVT, and experience difficulty breathing or any other signs of a PE, call 911 immediately.
Smeltzer, S. C., Bare, B. G., Hinkle, J. L., & Cheever, K. H. (2010). Brunner and Suddarth’s textbook of medical surgical nursing (12th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins