Every year, thousands of Americans develop blood clots after surgery. If one of these clots travels to the lungs, it forms a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is life-threatening. Such a clot is also known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) because it originates most often in the deep veins in the thigh or calf. Because orthopedic surgery requires patients to spend some time immobilized, it puts them at greater risk for DVTs and PEs. Without therapy, between 50% and 85% of orthopedic patients could develop a DVT.
What we do to reduce your risk of blood clots
We provide numerous safeguards against DVTs and PEs. Before surgery, you will be assessed for your risk factors. You may be prescribed a medication known as a blood thinner, or anti-coagulant. Special leg wraps and support stockings decrease the chance of a DVT or PE by promoting blood flow. They are commonly used in the operating room, in the recovery room, and during your postoperative phase. Leg wraps inflate and deflate around the calf to massage your legs, increasing circulation.
What you can do to reduce your risk of blood clots
Report to your surgeon if you have ever had a blood clot in your legs or lungs.
Refrain from smoking. Studies have shown that patients who smoke have a higher incidence of DVT and PE.
While you are recovering in bed, you can improve your circulation by doing leg exercises such as flexing and extending your feet, as long as your doctor approves.
If you have pain in your lower legs, report it to your nurse immediately. It may not indicate a problem, but the professional staff can help determine that for sure.
Report any persistent shortness of breath to your nurse.
Attend a preoperative teaching class.