Formation of blood clots is a common post-operative complication. But, why do they develop? Are they fatal? Can you prevent them? Is something wrong with your operation? To answer all your queries, read this article to gain some useful information about the development of blood clots post-surgery.
Did You Know?
PE and DVT type of blood clots cause 100,000 deaths in the United States annually.
Blood clotting is one of the vital processes in the body, which prevents excessive bleeding after an injury or trauma. A blood clot is formed when platelets, red blood cells, and fibrin protein form a coagulate in a certain part of the body to quicken the healing process of the damage caused to blood vessels in an injury and ensure uninterrupted circulation of blood. A blood clot or thrombus can naturally dissipate in the body, when the wound or injury has healed. In some post-surgery cases, the risk of appearance of blood clots can be very high. Sometimes, blood clots are formed for no apparent reason. If the clot does not dissolve naturally, it may be dangerous and can lead to a number of health problems.
Information on Blood Clots After Surgery
After any surgical procedure, there is a risk of developing some complications. Formation of blood clots is one such reaction. These are more commonly sighted after orthopedic surgeries like back surgery, knee replacement surgery, hip replacement surgery, joint surgery, or fracture repair. Pelvic surgeries like gynecological and urological surgeries also involve the risk of blood clots. Most of these are likely to be formed within 2 weeks and up to 12 weeks following the surgery. However, some may develop within a few hours or even during the surgical procedure.
Effects: Generally, physical activity after the surgery helps to prevent the formation of blood clots. But, in case of hip or joint surgery, it may be difficult to get back to normal physical activities soon. In such cases, there is an increased risk of venous thromboembolism or pulmonary embolism (PE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the following months after surgery. People over 40 years of age are at a higher risk of blood clots after surgery. The risk is associated with the type of surgery, the medications taken, and the patient’s medical history. Deep vein thrombosis is common after a joint replacement surgery. In DVT, blood clots are formed in the veins of the thigh, leg, and pelvis. They can interfere with normal blood circulation in this area. You may experience sudden swelling, soreness, warmth, redness, and pain in your thigh and lower leg. The blood clot may break off and travel to other body parts through the bloodstream, known as thromboembolism. Since air travel for long duration further contributes to the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, post-surgery patients are advised to refrain from the same.
Blood clots after surgery can become life-threatening especially if the blood clot travels to the lungs; it can lead to a fatal condition called pulmonary embolism. Depending on the size of the clot, it can block the arteries in the lungs, which can cause an array of health complications such as chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeats, fainting, dizziness, anxiety, coughing, mild fever, stoppage of blood flow, and even a heart attack. Pulmonary embolism is a serious health condition that may result in the death of the patient. One of the early signs of pulmonary embolism after surgery are sudden coughing with no citable reasons as such, even coughing up blood, profuse sweating, mental haziness, and discomfort while breathing.
Diagnosis: Since a blood clot can reduce the flow of blood to a region, it naturally reduces the flow of oxygen as well, which can result in quick degeneration of cell tissue, leaving an affected body part partially or wholly damaged or dead. This medical condition is referred to as ischemia. In case you notice the symptoms of a blood clot, avoid rubbing or massaging the affected area as this can dislodge the clot, allowing it to move to another body part. If the clot blocks the veins in the lungs, brain, or heart, it can lead to life-threatening health conditions. Formation of blood clots after a surgery is diagnosed by various tests like D-dimer blood test, leg venography, plethysmography of the legs, chest X-ray, lung scan, pulmonary angiogram, and Doppler ultrasound. Blood clots are treated with blood-thinning drugs like aspirin, or anticoagulants like Heparin or Warfarin.
Often, cases of blood clots after surgery often go undiagnosed and result in death due to lack of medical intervention. Post-operative blood clots can be prevented by taking blood-thinning medications prescribed by the doctor, applying such ointments, using compression stockings, and attempting physical activities after the surgery to improve blood circulation. As a preventive measure, after surgery patients are advised to indulge in non-strenuous physical activity to enhance blood flow to the limbs.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.