Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention

The public has become more aware of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) prevention since researchers announced that long airplane rides or other periods of inactivity increase the risk of developing blood clots. Depending on your personal history and circumstances, DVT prevention can be as simple as doing regular stretching exercises, or as complicated as having a Greenfield filter placed in the deep veins to prevent pulmonary embolisms.

Staying Active: Mobility and Stretching Exercises

Mobility is the best DVT prevention. Blood circulation is impaired during periods of inactivity (long airplane rides, post-surgical bed rest, or even long hours sitting at a desk). When the muscles of the legs are active, they help push blood back to the heart. When the leg muscles are inactive, blood collects in the legs and lower extremities, increasing the risk of developing a DVT.

Regular mobility and stretching exercises help maintain proper blood circulation. This can be as simple as taking a walk down the airplane aisle once an hour to keep circulation moving. Stretching exercises, while not always appropriate for an airplane ride, are also excellent for circulation and DVT prevention. Taking frequent stretching breaks while doing office work prevents blood circulation from becoming sluggish.

Mobility and stretching exercises are particularly important for those who have had recent surgery, especially hip or knee surgery, which carries a high risk of DVT formation. Mobility may be impaired by surgery, but the right exercises will help prevent blood clots.

Flight-Related DVT Prevention Checklist

  • Avoid alcohol while flying.
  • Don’t cross your legs or sit in a manner that restricts circulation.
  • Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Elevate your legs when possible.
  • Schedule mobility breaks and stretching exercises.
  • Wear loose clothing.

Compression Stockings and Blood Circulation

Compression stockings help to improve blood circulation. Compression stockings are elastic stockings that reach from the foot to just below the knee. The stockings are tighter at the ankles than at the knee. The varying tightness of compression stockings helps circulate blood that collects at the ankles.

Compression stockings are often used after hip or knee surgery, or during airplane rides to promote circulation. While compression stockings can be uncomfortable, their effect on blood circulation reduces the chances of DVT.

The Greenfield Filter

People with an increased risk of pulmonary embolism may benefit from a Greenfield filter, also known as an inferior vena cava filter. The Greenfield filter is surgically placed inside the large inferior vena cava vein. By blocking blood clots from traveling through the veins, the Greenfield filter prevents damage to the lungs or heart.

Post-Surgical DVT Prevention and Fondaparinux

Orthopedic surgery carries a high risk of post-operative DVT. Fortunately, there is a new tool to combat this risk. The FDA has approved the medication fondaparinux for use as a prophylactic DVT treatment in orthopedic surgery patients. A synthetic pentasaccharide, fondaparinux inhibits factor X, a protein necessary for blood coagulation.

Studies of fondaparinux indicate that it is an effective DVT treatment. In some studies, fondaparinux actually outperformed low molecular weight heparin for DVT prevention.

Resources

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (nd). What is deep vein thrombosis? Retrieved January 16, 2004, from www.dci.nhlbi.nih.gov/Diseases/Dvt/DVT_WhatIs.html.

National Library of Medicine. (updated 2004). Venous insufficiency. Retrieved January 16, 2004, from www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000203.htm.

National Library of Medicine. (updated 2004). Deep venous thrombosis. Retrieved January 16, 2004, from www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000156.htm.

NASA Occupational Health. (updated 2003). Flight-related deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Economy class syndrome. Retrieved January 16, 2004, from www.ohp.nasa.gov/alerts/dvt.html.