This month is observed world over as ‘DVT awareness month' with the aim of raising awareness about deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a preventable condition.
DVT is a condition where a person develops blood clot in the veins running deep inside the leg muscles. The person develops pain in the calf muscles initially. The condition becomes serious when the clot travels to the heart and enters the lungs resulting in death, say vascular surgeons.
Several studies have been conducted in India and abroad that show that more than half of those hospitalised for various conditions develop DVT, they say. “Many patients who are bed-ridden for more than four or five days in the hospital will develop swelling in the leg and it is often wrongly attributed to the surgery. But, the problem lies elsewhere,” says Apollo Hospital's consultant vascular surgeon N.Sekar.
“A majority of hospitalised patients are prone to DVT and it is the easiest condition to prevent. Others at high risk include the old, immobile, persons with varicose veins, those who undergo major orthopaedic surgeries, victims of stroke, persons with a family history of cancer and getting admitted for severe infection and patients who are in the intensive care unit for more than 3 days,” he says. Doctors say uncontrolled use of pills to enhance hormones and alter menstrual cycles in women can cause DVT.
M. Mohanambal, Director of Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, Royapettah, says pregnant women and new mothers are also highly susceptible. DVT is observed more in rural areas and in district hospitals but not in cities such as Chennai, she said. One of the reasons for this is that women do not drink enough water. The concentration of the blood increases when the body is dehydrated and this increases the risk of blood coagulation (clotting). “We ensure that women drink enough boiled water,” she says. Attendants are advised to massage the calf muscles of the patient and encourage them to walk. Deep breathing exercises are also taught to prevent blood clots, she says.
It was the death of an American reporter in March 2003 while covering the Iraqi war, which created an awareness of DVT. David Bloom was covering the war from inside the cramped seat of a tank, when he collapsed. An autopsy revealed that his death had been caused by coagulation of blood. His wife Melanie Bloom launched an awareness campaign on the condition.