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Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, often in the calf or thigh. The clot can partially or completely block blood flow and damage blood vessels. If a blood clot breaks free, it can travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolus, which can be serious.

DVT Risk Factors

The risk of developing DVT is greatest during the 10 days following surgery. Other common risk factors for DVT include:

  • Limited mobility
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Respiratory failure
  • Medications such as birth control pills
  • Personal or family history of venous thromboembolism
  • Age – those who are 40 and older have a greater risk

Preventing DVT

There are things you can do to prevent DVT. Your physician and nurse will work with you to determine the DVT prevention methods that are right for you.

  • Exercising your lower leg muscles is important especially when you sit for long periods of time as it decreases the pooling of blood in your legs. Try and do exercises like toe lifts and ankle rotations several times a day. If you've had surgery it is important to move as soon as possible and as prescribed by your physician.
  • Your physician may prescribe elastic compression stockings to help prevent DVT.

DVT Prevention Exercises

Toe lifts—With your heels on the floor, lift the toes and front of the foot as high as possible then put both feet flat on the floor. This keeps your calf muscles working to prevent blood from pooling.

Ankle Rotation—Rotate your feet clockwise and counterclockwise for 30 seconds as shown. Sit with your knee bent and circle your foot, first clockwise then counterclockwise. While doing the exercises, be sure that you are only moving your foot at the ankle. Your leg or knee should not move.