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How to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in a vein in the body can be life-threatening, but there are steps you can take to help prevent DVT.

The risk of DVT is increased for people who are inactive, often through being admitted to hospital, or from sitting down on long travel journeys.

DVT prevention: Healthy lifestyle and regular checkups

To lower your risk and help prevent DVT, take these steps:

  • Maintain an active lifestyle and exercise regularly - daily, if possible. Walking, swimming and cycling are all great activities.
  • Maintain a healthy weight with exercise as well as a healthy diet.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Report any family or personal history of blood-clotting problems to your GP.
  • Discuss alternatives to birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy with your GP.

During pregnancy, ask your GP what you can do to help prevent DVT.

Preventing DVT after surgery or while bedridden

If you need surgery, your surgeon will review your medical history to help assess your risk of DVT and determine whether you need specific measures to help prevent DVT.

Your DVT risk may begin with becoming immobile and continue for several months following surgery. However, in some cases, your risk is greatest right after surgery and for about 10 days afterwards.

Researchers continue to look at the best ways to prevent DVT after surgery. For example, some studies show that using local anaesthetic instead of general anaesthetic, when possible, can decrease your DVT risk.

Here are other measures your doctor may suggest to help prevent DVT:

  • Having anticoagulant therapy.
  • Wearing a sleeve-like device on your legs during surgery to compress your legs and keep blood flowing through your veins.
  • Wearing elastic compression stockings. These keep blood from pooling in your veins.
  • Elevating the foot of your bed.
  • Getting up and moving as soon as you can after surgery, or after you've been ill.
  • Taking pain medicine as prescribed to make it easier to move around.

Also to prevent DVT, do any leg exercises your doctor recommends. These may include leg lifts and gentle foot and ankle exercises.

Prevent DVT when travelling

DVT prevention is also something to consider when you travel. That's because sitting still for long periods puts you at risk. Because children tend to move around more, even while sitting, their risk is not as high.

Prevent DVT when travelling with these six steps:

  • Consider buying compression stockings and wearing them during your travels.
  • Avoid wearing short, tight socks or crossing your legs for long periods.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid dehydrating fluids, such as alcohol. Dehydration causes blood to thicken and vessels to narrow.
  • When travelling by car, stop every hour to walk around.
  • Between connecting flights and during long flights, get up and move around. This squeezes the blood vessels, helping to prevent DVT by preventing the formation of blood clots.
  • If you can't easily move around, curl or press your toes down often throughout your trip.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 21, 2015

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