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DVT: Preventative Care Needed For At-Risk Patients

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DVT Preventative Care Needed For At-Risk Patients

DVT: Preventative Care Needed For At-Risk Patients

March 25, 2004

By Diana Barnes Brown for Veins1

Patients with a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) usually receive the care they need to minimize their chances of developing the condition, a recent study found. But the study, conducted by Dr. Samuel Z. Goldhaber of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., and Dr. Victor F. Tapson of the Duke University Medical Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, also unearthed several disturbing statistics about preventative measures taken for at-risk patients.

The study was published in the January 15, 2004 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

The doctors and their research team followed a group of 5,451 in- and outpatient cases of DVT. They found that people with known DVT risk factors – such as high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, recent surgery, and immobility within the 30 days preceding diagnosis – often do not receive preventative care for the condition and the frequently related problem of pulmonary embolism. Such care can be as simple as providing compression stockings or administering anticoagulant medications such as heparin or warfarin. Yet, out of 2,726 patients diagnosed while they were hospitalized, the doctors discovered only 42% had not received any preventative health care prior to their diagnosis.

DVT is a potentially life-threatening condition. It is sometimes called “economy class syndrome” because of the increased likelihood of developing it while movement is restricted, such as during long, cramped airplane flights. The condition occurs when blood pools and clots – usually in the large veins in the legs, arms, shoulders, or groin – following extended periods of immobility. As a clot loosens, or “shears,” it can float freely in the blood stream, and come to rest in the circulatory system of the lungs, cutting off circulation and leading to pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is the choking off of a section of lung tissue, which suddenly and severely compromises lung ability and breathing. Blockages caused by smaller clots can lead to infection, or death of lung tissue due to inadequate circulation. Complete or nearly complete blockages that cause large-scale obstructions of blood flow to the lungs usually result in fatalities. Overall, pulmonary embolism causes about 30,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Drs. Goldhaber and Tapson and the research team found the results of the study alarming. In their published study, they stated the need for more awareness in the medical community when it comes to prevention of the condition in at-risk groups.

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