Sunday, March 11, 2012

National Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month


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By Diane Forrest, RN

My brother had a girlfriend whose parents were just wonderful.  That would include me in many of their family outings since I was new to the area and didn’t know anyone in town.  Not long after I finished college and got married, they moved to my town.  It was so nice to have "family" close by.  After the end of my marriage and the birth of my son I moved back home to my parents’ house.  Not soon after that I got the call that Mrs. Doris had passed away.  I was in shock and disbelief.  She was only in her late 40's or early 50's, was not sick, and had no medical problems that I was aware of.  She died from a pulmonary embolism.  She developed Deep vein thrombosis in her lower leg that went untreated. The clot broke loose, turning it into an emboli’s, that went to her lungs and it killed her.

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Before my husband became bedridden he was wheelchair bound.  Since he had muscles spasms in his legs, I assumed that he had kicked the table or something.  He had no feeling in his lower extremities, so he felt no pain.  We went to the hospital, because he had a few other problems, and he needed to be checked for any broken bones, fortunately, the x-ray showed no broken bones, however there was a possibility that he may have developed a clot.  My husband was terrified.  He just knew he was going to die.  He held on to my hand for the 2 hours we had to wait to get the tests run.  Luckily, he did not have Deep Vein Thrombosis, but simply edema.  Two years later, however, after he was hospitalized for a kidney infection, he developed deep vein thrombosis.  He was not expected to survive, however the heparin shots were started, and I only moved him, and was extremely careful.  From the previous experience, I made sure no one said the words "blood clot" around him, even left a note on the door.  The clot finally resolved, and he was able to return home.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that occurs in the deep inside the body, usually the legs.  They can be caused by several things such as:
  • Inserting a heart catheter in the lower legs;
  • Bed rest;
  • Smoking;
  • Obesity;
  • Fractures;
  • Recent Surgery;
  • Child Birth;
  • Family History;
  • Cancer; and
  • Taking birth control medications or other medications.

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Signs of a DVT are redness, swelling pain and warmth to an area, usually the legs.  An ultrasound or venography can confirm suspicions of DVT.  Once the diagnosis is confirmed, blood thinners such as heparin, which can be given IV or subcutaneous; and Coumadin (warfarin) can be taken by mouth are started.  Hospitalization is required in heparin is given iv, however my be allowed home if the injections are given in the abdomen, or if pills are prescribe.  Patients may be required to wear anti-embolism stockings to percent DVT from forming.

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March is National Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month.  If you know of someone who fits the profiles above of someone who is susceptible to having DVT, Please alert them to the signs and symptoms of DVT and make sure they seek help immediately if they believe they may have a blood clot.

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