Complications: Deep Vein Thrombosis

Brain Injury Team, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
Complications: Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is commonly known as a blood clot. Because you are not able to move around as you did before and do not have the use of muscle in your legs the blood travels more slowly. When blood moves slowly, it can develop a clot. You are most likely to develop a blood clot soon after your injury. The risk becomes less once you are more active. However, you must always be on the look out for blood clots. If treated blood clots are not dangerous to you but if untreated and able to break free, they could travel to the lungs or heart and cause death.

How to prevent blood clots

  • For the first two to three months following injury most people get a shot that thins the blood. This medicine greatly reduces your chances for developing a blood clot but is not without risks itself. It thins the blood so if you were to cut yourself you may bleed for a longer period of time. For this reason the medicine is usually stopped after you have past the time of greatest risk.
  • While in the hospital you may be given sleeves to wrap around your legs that inflate and deflate with air in order to maintain circulation when you are in bed. They are usually given when you cannot have or cannot tolerate blood thinners. It is important to wear these whenever you are in bed to prevent blood clots.
  • Elastic stockings are frequently worn to help improve circulation. They also help decrease swelling in the legs.
  • Staying active and performing range of motion exercises also improves circulation, therefore help prevent blood clots.

How to tell if you have a blood clot

  • The most common sign of a blood clot is swelling of the leg. Many people have swelling in their legs after they have been up all day. This swelling is usually present in both legs. Swelling from a blood clot will only happen in the leg with the clot. Get in the habit of checking your legs each morning before getting dressed. If one leg looks larger than the other you may have a blood clot.
  • A temperature that doesn't go away with no other obvious signs of an infection.
  • Local warmth, swelling or pain in the leg.
  • Often a simple ultrasound test of the legs can determine if you have a blood clot. If you are concerned, ask your doctor.

What to do if you suspect a blood clot

  • Do not move or exercise the leg. This could move the clot and be very dangerous.
  • Go to an emergency room right away to be evaluated and if necessary treated.
Posted on BrainLine November 26, 2008.

From the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, LIFE Center. Reprinted with permission.

Comments (1)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

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