A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a clot that can occur within the veins of the leg and pelvis before, during or after surgery. They can move up to the lung, and at its worst – can be fatal. If every patient having a joint replacement operation has an ultrasound of the calf – 10-20% will have a small clot, which often does not require any change of treatment.
How do I minimize the risks of developing a DVT?
• Walking, moving your foot up & down, contracting the calf muscle
• Compression Stockings. They help with promoting venous (blood) returning into the circulation reducing swelling in the lower leg
• Aspirin, or other blood thinning medications, are routinely used for 6 weeks after surgery
• Avoid inactivity for extended periods of time – if allowed to walk – walk every hour in daylight hours. If watching the TV, foot up & down exercises at every add break. If reading, foot exercises at the end of every article or page
• Put your leg up – lying down is much better than bolt upright with a footstool. Lounge suite is good (except if recent hip replacement)
What symptoms would suggest a DVT?
• Pain and tenderness of the calf
• Swelling of the calf not resolved with elevation
• Severe, unexplained pain in your foot, ankle or calf
• Chest pain or shortness of breath could mean a clot in the lung (this is very serious)
What if I do get a DVT?
Depending on the size and location of the blood clot determines the treatment. Small clots below the knee are treated with compression stockings and tablets – blood thinning agent (Aspirin) and keeping moving. In some instances stronger blood thinning agents are required (e.g. clexane, warfarin)
If you, or a family member, have had a blood clot before, you MUST tell your surgeon to ensure additional preventative steps are taken.