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Understanding blood clots

GLENN ELLIS | 4/17/2017, 2:56 a.m.
Up to 600,000 people in the United States are affected by venous thromboembolism each year, a disease that includes deep ...
A thrombus is a blood clot that forms in a vessel and remains there. An embolism is a clot that travels from the site where it formed to another location in the body. Thrombi or emboli can lodge in a blood vessel and block the flow of blood in that location depriving tissues of normal blood flow and oxygen. This can result in damage, destruction (infarction), or even death of the tissues (necrosis) in that area. A.D.A.M. Inc. Graphic

The type of surgery you are having can also increase the risk of having blood clots after the procedure. If your surgery requires your arteries or veins to be cut or repaired, the risk of a blood clot is higher because your body works to stop bleeding by forming clots.

If you are having a surgery where your heart is stopped, typically a heart bypass surgery (CABG), your risk of a blood clot is also increased.

Your own personal medical and social history may also contribute to clot formation after surgery. For example, if you are a smoker, you are at higher risk for the formation of blood clots than the average individual, even without having surgery.

Research found that people with congestive heart failure (a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood through the body) were at a greater risk for having a blood clot after major hip or knee surgery.

Blood clot risk depends on risk factors – such as age, weight and length of surgery. The risk is present until you are walking normally – about 5-7 days. For higher risk people, dividing the surgery and giving heparin after surgery reduces the risk. Taking steps for the prevention and treatment of blood clots after hip and knee replacement surgery is an important part of your recovery. Joint replacement patients are at highest risk for developing a DVT two to 10 days after surgery and remain at risk for approximately three months.

Discuss the risk with your surgeon and follow his/her advice. Getting up and moving during your recovery from surgery is one of the best ways to prevent blood clots. Staying well hydrated by drinking ample amounts of water can also reduce your risk of forming clots. You should also know the signs and symptoms of a blood clot.

A pulmonary embolism can be fatal. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

Disclaimer: This column is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition or concern, please seek professional care from your doctor or other health professional. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through http://www.glennellis.com.