Thrombosis is a silent but deadly foe that can strike patients recovering from surgery, women during pregnancy and shortly after delivery or individuals whose sedentary lifestyles present a hazard, explains a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine professor and UC Health cardiologist.
It’s a condition that includes the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein typically in the leg or pelvic veins (deep vein thrombosis) and pulmonary embolism which results if a clot dislodges and travels to the lungs, says Richard Becker, MD, director of the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute.
Raising awareness of the dangers of venous thromboembolism is the goal of this year’s international observance of World Thrombosis Day set for Friday, Oct. 13. About 10 million people worldwide, including 900,000 Americans, annually suffer from venous thromboembolism, says Becker, director of the UC Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease.
"Thrombosis defined as a blood clot within a blood vessel is ubiquitous in society,” says Becker. "It can be either protective, stemming blood loss from an injury or harmful and life-threatening when developing without good cause. Thrombosis that occurs in an artery is the proximate cause of heart attacks and strokes.”
During pregnancy and for the first six weeks after delivery, new moms are at high risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, says Becker. "Some people inherit risk, but in terms of pregnancy there is a heightened risk. One of the body’s many changes during pregnancy in preparation for delivery is to become very proficient at forming blood clots. Without very well-primed abilities to form blood clots a women suffer significant or even fatal bleeding with just normal delivery.”
Becker says women of color seem to be at greater risk of developing blood clots during and after pregnancy. Thrombosis is preventable and treatable. Becker along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some suggestions:
- Move around as soon as possible after being confined to bed, such as after surgery, serious medical illness or traumatic injury.
- If you’re at risk for deep vein thrombosis, talk to your doctor about graduated compression stockings and the use of anticoagulants (blood thinning medication) to prevent an occurrence.
- When sitting for long periods of time such as traveling for more than four hours, get up and walk every two to three hours.
- Maintain a healthy weight and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
- Women known to be at high risk for venous thromboembolism during pregnancy may be prescribed a blood thinning medication to minimize risk.