Venous Thromboembolism Preventing Blood Clots
If you are preparing to go to the hospital for a procedure or have other of VTE risk factors, talk with your healthcare provider about a plan for preventing blood clots from forming.
Clotting is one of the body’s natural ways to heal the damage to your blood vessels from surgery. While you wear a cast or stay in bed to heal, the blood circulating in your veins slows because you stop moving as much as usual. This lack of movement raises the likelihood of blood clotting.
The chance of developing VTE is highest in the first 3 months after surgery and lowers with time. Your provider may give you suggestions, including the following, to help prevent VTE.
- Keep moving. Helping your blood circulate makes it harder for clots to form. Your provider may tell you to move around as soon as possible after surgery and as you heal. If you cannot get up and walk, try to flex and stretch your feet to improve blood flow in your calves.
- Apply pressure. Gentle pressure keeps blood from pooling and clotting. Your provider may talk to you about applying pressure — for example, by wearing a sleeve or boot that periodically fills with air or by wearing compression stockings, which apply more pressure around the ankles and feet.
- Take blood thinner medicines (anticoagulants). Anticoagulants such as heparin (which your provider can give as a shot), direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), and warfarin (which you take by mouth) are also used to treat VTE. Sometimes this preventive therapy starts before surgery, or your provider may prescribe a blood thinner to take during your recovery period at home.
You may need a combination of these preventive treatments. These approaches to prevention may also be appropriate if you are admitted to the hospital for reasons other than surgery, cannot move for an extended period, or have a condition that makes it more likely that your blood will clot.
Traveling and blood clots
Long flights (more than 4 hours) more than double the likelihood of VTE. Follow these tips to lower the chance of VTE during travel.
- Stand up and walk around every 1 to 2 hours, if possible
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Flex and extend your knees and ankles often
- Change positions often while seated, avoiding crossing your legs if possible
- Wear compression stockings
- Avoid drinking alcohol as it may lower your ability to move around