Clots in veins (deep vein thrombosis)

Blood clots can form in the blood vessels draining deoxygenated blood from various parts of the body (veins). This most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs, that too when one is bedridden after an operation or an acute illness. It is noted in women taking rest after childbirth as well. On rare occasions clots can occur in the deep veins of the upper limbs, but much rarer than in the lower limbs.

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis

Pain and swelling of the limb involved is the most common symptom in deep vein thrombosis. The limb may become very much swollen in certain cases, with a colour change to bluish red. Sometimes deep vein thrombosis may manifest without pain and even swelling. It may manifest with only mild swelling of the limb.

Clot migration to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)

Migration of clots from veins to the lungs is the most dreaded complication of deep vein thrombosis. It a large amount of clots migrate to the blood vessels of the lungs (pulmonary arteries), they can get blocked producing breathlessness, chest pain, dizziness and sometimes spitting out of small quantities of blood. In extreme cases, pulmonary embolism can be immediately fatal if the main pulmonary artery is suddenly blocked, preventing deoxygenated blood from entering the lungs for oxygenation.

Prevention of deep vein thrombosis

Prevention of deep vein thrombosis is more important than treatment. Ensuring good mobility of the lower limbs while bedridden is the most easy method of prevention of clots forming in the veins. This can be done by encouraging the individual to move the lower limbs frequently while in bed, as much as permissible by the medical condition. If one is not able to move on one’s own, a helper can move the limbs passively. Another method used in hospitals is to give intermittent pneumatic compression using a cuff and a motorised device. Yet another method is to provide elastic compression stockings. In addition to these measure, when medical condition permits, medications which reduce the clotting tendency of blood can be given. But these medications have the inherent risk of bleeding from the wounds in case of operations.