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Blood Clot Prevention

Carol Baldwin

Last updated: October 20, 2016 7:19 pm

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When you cut your finger or scratch the surface of your skin, your blood coagulates. This helps to prevent excessive bleeding and promotes healing.

Blood clot prevention of these “surface level” clots is usually not necessary. Such clots form in small vessels, causing redness, pain and swelling, but seldom pose complications.

However, there are clots that do pose a danger and can even be life-threatening; for example, when clots form in the heart, legs, lungs or brain.

Blood clots that form in the larger deeper veins of the legs are known as deep vein thromboses (DVT). 1 When clot pieces break away from their original location in the legs, the pieces can travel through the body and cause more extensive damage. For example, a clot that breaks away from a vein in the leg might travel to the lungs, creating an obstruction in blood flow known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). 2

One study suggests that having a DVT can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, especially within the first year after DVT. 3

Signs of DVT are swelling, typically in one limb, leg pain characterized as cramp-like pain akin to a Charley horse, reddish or bluish skin discoloration, and warmth to the touch in the affected limb. 4 The signs of PE include sudden shortness of breath that worsens with exertion, rapid or irregular heart rate, sharp stabbing chest pain that also worsens with exertion, and an unexplained cough that can be accompanied by bloody mucus. 5

Conditions and factors that cause or contribute to the formation of blood clots include: heart disease, some cancers or undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, smoking, pregnancy, having an inherited disorder that affects blood clotting, obesity, surgery, prolonged bed rest, inactivity or sitting too long and some medications, such as supplemental estrogen. 6

Levels of Risk for Blood Clots

Your level of risk for blood clots can be estimated to be high, moderate or average, depending upon the number of risk factors you have.

If you are under age 40, active, have no immediate family history of blood clots, and no conditions or illnesses that would increase your chances of developing blood clots, your risk level is average. 7

There is a wider range of events that puts you at a moderate risk for developing blood clots. This includes if you are: over age 65, a current cancer or chemotherapy patient, obese, or pregnant or recently gave birth. You also have a moderate risk if you have: had blood clots or an immediate family history of blood clots, a hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder, a bone fracture, heart failure, or recently been on bed rest. People who travel frequently and take hormonal birth control or hormone replacements fall into this category of risk as well. 8

People at the highest risk for developing blood clots have typically recently undergone or experienced one or more of the following: leg paralysis, knee or hip replacement or other major surgery, hospitalization or nursing home stay.  Additionally, if you have suffered a major physical trauma, such as an accident or fall, your risk level is elevated. 9

Steps to Prevent Blood Clots

There are practical steps you can take to lower your risk of developing blood clots.  Blood clot prevention tips include:

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and weight
  • Staying active
  • Wearing loose fitting clothes while traveling
  • Avoiding sitting for periods of more than two hours
  • Pointing and flexing your toes and making circular motions with your feet to improve circulation when you are unable to move around
  • Knowing your risk level and the symptoms of blood clots
  • Controlling other health conditions such as diabetes and heart problems
  • Understanding your medications, especially hormonal birth control, hormone replacements and blood thinners. 10

Xarelto Dangers: Medication Risks

There are a number of treatment options available for blood clots, which have more recently included newer anticoagulant drugs such as Xarelto. These medications can have serious complications and side effects.

The most serious of potential Xarelto dangers is uncontrollable bleeding, a risk which may be worse if taken in conjunction with other medicines. In addition, unlike warfarin (another common anticoagulant) there is no readily available antidote for Xarelto.  .

Retrievable IVC Filter Risks

Your doctor may determine that a retrievable inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is an option for your blood clot treatment. This device is implanted, either permanently or temporarily, in the large vein in the abdomen which returns blood to the heart from the lower body. 11

According to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR), “An IVC filter traps large clot fragments and prevents them from traveling through the vena cava vein to the heart and lungs, where they could cause severe complications or even death.” 12

Among the most serious retrievable IVC filter risks is the fact that the “IVC filter or a piece of the IVC filter may break loose and travel to the heart or lungs causing injury or death,” cautions the RSNA and ACR. In addition, the IVC filter may “lodge in the wrong place, change position or penetrate through the vein.” 13

Litigation is currently underway against manufacturers of retrievable IVC filters due to these and other complications.

  1. Mayo Clinic, Deep vein thrombosis. (2014). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis/basics/definition/con-20031922. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  2. Mayo Clinic. Pulmonary embolism. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-embolism/multimedia/pulmonary-embolism/img-20006463. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  3. WebMD. DVT Tied to Heart Attack, Stroke Risk. (2007). http://www.webmd.com/dvt/news/20071126/dvt-tied-to-heart-attack-stroke-risk. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  4. National Blood Clot Alliance. (2015). Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots. http://www.stoptheclot.org/learn_more/blood_clot_symptoms__dvt.htm. Accessed October 25, 2015 

  5. Mayo Clinic. Pulmonary embolism. Symptoms. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-embolism/basics/symptoms/con-20022849. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  6. Mayo Clinic. Pulmonary embolism. Risk factors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-embolism/basics/risk-factors/con-20022849. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  7. National Blood Clot Alliance. (2015). Blood Clot Risk and What You Can Do. http://www.stoptheclot.org/learn_more/dvt.htm. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  8. National Blood Clot Alliance. (2015). Blood Clot Risk and What You Can Do. http://www.stoptheclot.org/learn_more/dvt.htm. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  9. National Blood Clot Alliance. (2015). Blood Clot Risk and What You Can Do. http://www.stoptheclot.org/learn_more/dvt.htm. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  10. National Blood Clot Alliance. (2015). Blood Clot Risk and What You Can Do. http://www.stoptheclot.org/learn_more/dvt.htm. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  11. RadiologyInfo.org (2014). Inferior Vena Cava Filter Placement and Removal. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=venacavafilter. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  12. RadiologyInfo.org (2014). Inferior Vena Cava Filter Placement and Removal. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=venacavafilter. Accessed October 25, 2015. 

  13. RadiologyInfo.org (2014). Inferior Vena Cava Filter Placement and Removal. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=venacavafilter. Accessed October 25, 2015.