Top strategies to reduce the risk of venous thromboembolism

What is venous thromboembolism?

Venous thromboembolism, otherwise known as VTE, is a blood clot which begins in a vein. There are two types of VTE:

  • Deep vein thrombosis: this is a clot in a deep vein. This usually occurs in the leg, but can sometimes occur in the arm.
  • Pulmonary embolism: what occurs when a deep vein thrombosis clot breaks free and then travels to the lungs, blocking the blood supply. This can cause physical pain and shortness of breath. This is more likely to happen if the vein was located in the thighs rather than lower in the legs.

What causes venous thromboembolism?

There are numerous causes for VTE, including:

  • Cancer
  • Surgery
  • Immobilisation
  • Hospitalisation
  • Pregnancy
  • Oral contraception
  •  Hormone medication with estrogen

There are several groups of people who are at a higher risk of having VTE occur. This includes those who:

  • Are obese
  • Have cancer or autoimmune disorders
  • Have thicker than normal blood
  • Are 60 years old or older
  • Have a genetic history of blood clots
  • Have reduced mobility
  • Have medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or any medical conditions which involve the heart or lungs.

While those who are older than 60 are most at risk, VTE can occur at any age.

What can doctors and clinics do to prevent VTE?

Thinking about VTE occurring after your cosmetic surgery is a scary thought. However, rest assured that clinics have the appropriate measures in place the minimise the risk of VTE occurring following surgery.

Prior to your surgery, you will attend a consultation with the surgeon who will perform your procedure. It is important to provide the surgeon with your full medical history. This includes any family history of blood clotting, as well as any medications you are currently taking. You may need to stop taking certain medications prior to your surgery. This includes medication such as the oral contraceptive pill and hormone medications.

If the surgeon considers you to be at risk of developing VTE, there are certain steps they may take. This includes:

  • Stockings: you may need to wear anti-embolism stockings, which will help to reduce VTE occurring.
  • Compression garments: compression garments will help to put pressure on the area of the body which you had your procedure. This will help to keep blood flow stable and may help to reduce blood clots.
  • Medication: the surgeon may give you medication to take following the procedure. This can include medication including a form of heparin, which aims to reduce blood clots forming.

What can I do to prevent VTE occurring?

If you are worried about VTE occurring, there are steps you can take to help minimise the risk. Steps you can take includes:

  • Telling your surgeon your full medical history during your consultation.
  • Avoid travelling for long periods of time without a break. If you need to travel, make sure you take breaks every three hours.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. You are considered overweight if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9, and obese if your BMI is over 30.
  • Ensure you keep mobile. While you will need to rest after surgery, you will be encouraged to do light exercises such as walking to keep a normal blood flow.
  • Keep hydrated.

Signs to look out for when you go home

Once you return home from your procedure, it is important to follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions. If you have been given stockings or a compression garment, make sure you wear this for the correct amount of time. Make sure you are wearing the garment correctly and continue to wear them after bathing and overnight if necessary.

If you are worried about anything during your recovery period, make sure you contact your surgeon or the medical team, who will be able to advise you on what steps to take or will be able to book you a follow-up appointment.

There are symptoms you can look out for following your procedure. This includes:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Swelling in the legs or groin
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain

If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure to contact your GP or visit the emergency department.

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