Reducing the risk of blood clots

Blood clotsBlood clots, or venous thromboembolism (VTE), are a major risk to hospitalised patients. VTE can be either a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of a limb or a pulmonary embolism where a part of the clot dislodges and travels up to the lungs. Symptoms vary from swelling of the limbs, to chest pain and shortness of breath.

Read our patient information leaflet about preventing blood clots and if you have been prescribed oral anticoalgulation therapy, watch our video for patients taking warfarin.

It is estimated that hospital-associated VTE leads to about 40,000 deaths in England per year, 25,000 of which may be preventable through proper risk management and preventative treatment, known as thromboprophylaxis.

Assessing the risk of blood clots

In line with government recommendations, we use risk assessment tool and aim to offer individual risk assesment and appropriate preventative treatment to all our adult patients.  

Risk factors for VTE include:

  • Periods of immobility (being still) caused by illness or surgery
  • The type and site of surgery
  • Increasing age
  • A history of previous VTE or a family history
  • Other illnesses such as cancers or heart failure
  • Medicines that may increase the tendency of the blood to clot
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy: pulmonary embolism is a major cause of maternal death.

Prevention measures: thromboprophylaxis

Measures we can take to help prevent blood clots include:

  • Blood-thinning drugs like heparin, administered in hospital and post-discharge where appropriate (see our video about oral anticolagulation therapy).
  • Graduated compression stockings – these are usually used for surgical patients and in those at risk of bleeding.
  • Other mechanical methods aimed at providing compression to the lower body.
  • Early mobilisation and breathing exercises.

If you or a relative are coming into hospital please ask the doctors and nurses looking after you about your risk assessment and treatment.
 
To find out more about VTE or thromboprophylaxis please visit: