A DVT or deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot which has formed on the inner wall of a leg vein.
Most blood clots are very small and the body is able to break them down itself. Some, however, grow larger and may significantly decrease or block the flow of blood. This will cause the leg to swell and become painful (phlebitis).
It is essential that you are fully aware of the symptoms and know when to seek advice.
In some cases the clot becomes loose and travels via the heart to one or both lungs. This may interfere with the circulation of blood from the heart and thus reduce the amount of oxygen entering the circulatory system. This condition is referred to as a pulmonary embolism and calls for immediate, emergency treatment.
The cause of the condition is not understood.
There is a particular high incidence of deep vein thrombosis following any type of orthopaedic surgery but this risk is even higher for patients undergoing hip and knee replacements.
Anyone of any age can be affected but your risk increases if you: -
It is estimated that about 3% of people having a hip replacement will develop one.
In many cases deep vein thrombosis will be asymptomatic (have no symptoms). Sometimes the leg will swell and become painful (phlebitis).
If a small clot travels to one or both lungs you may still not notice anything. However if a larger clot reaches the lung then you will probably experience shortness of breath, chest pains, sweating.
So please print out the list of symptoms and put it somewhere easy to find like the fridge door!
If you experience any of the following symptoms in the days or weeks following surgery then CONTACT A HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL IMMEDIATELY.
If your doctor thinks you may have a DVT they will confirm the diagnosis by using a blood test (called the D-dimer blood test) or an ultrasound scan. It there is still any doubt you may undergo a contrast venography. Here a dye, which can be seen under X-ray, is injected into the leg vein. Any blockages to the circulation can then be spotted.
Medical treatment will be aimed at preventing new clots forming or existing ones growing larger. This is done principally by the use of anticoagulant medicines.
Medication can not dissolve any clots that you already have. Your body will deal with these over with time.
You may also be advised to wear compression stockings for up to two years after having a deep vein thrombosis.
Your surgeon is very aware of the risk and of all the preventative measures available. These may include: -
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