Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March is DVT Awareness Month

More than 1,240 Mainers succumb to DVT- (deep vein thrombosis) and PE-related (pulmonary embolism) deaths every year, according to the Mayo Clinic. And this estimate is likely on the low side.

In fact, the annual mortality rate of blood clots is greater than yearly deaths in the U.S. from breast cancer, AIDS and automobile accidents combined. Though most people know about these issues, DVT is still under-recognized. 

March is DVT and Blood Clot Awareness Month. It's a chance for the medical community to educate the public about a medical condition that affects approximately two million Americans annually.

All month long we'll be taking a closer look at DVT: what it is, who is at risk, and what you can do to prevent ever getting one.

So what is DVT? Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep vein system. The danger is that the clot could break free from the vein wall and enter into the blood stream. The clot could then travel to the lungs and become a PE (pulmonary embolism), or to the brain and result in a stroke. DVT-related PE is the leading cause of preventable death in U.S. hospitals.

Anyone can get a DVT and at any age. Certain groups, however are at a greater risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot. 
  • Those with prolonged immobility or no mobility, like patients in the hospital or on bed rest, or long-distance travelers (so-called “economy class syndrome”)
  • People with blood-clotting issues, like those with a genetic disorder, or cancer patients undergoing surgical procedures
  • Patients with damage to their vein walls because of surgery or injury
  • Pregnant women are more susceptible to DVT because of hormonal changes
  • Seniors 
This is, by no means, a complete list of risks, and it's important to remember that risk factors can be compounded. For example, combining an existing blood clot disorder with immobility can dramatically raise the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Having risk factors does not mean that you will surely get a DVT-- rather, you should be proactive about prevention.

Take this month to learn more about DVT, take an online risk assessment, and ask your physician if you may be at risk.

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