Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein. It commonly occurs in the thigh or calf and can develop after any major surgery, but people who have surgery on the legs and hip are especially at risk.
If a DVT clot blocks the flow of blood through the vein, repeated swelling and pain can occur. Worse, a clot may break free and possibly block the flow of blood to the lungs and heart (known as pulmonary embolism, or PE). PE is a serious medical threat that could lead to death.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), people prone to DVT may be at particular risk when they take long trips, since a lack of movement in the legs could allow blood clots to form. To help keep people safe, the group offers this travel checklist of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”:
• Talk to your doctor before going on a trip during which you will be sitting still for more than a few hours.
• Exercise your lower legs regularly. Ankle pumps are a good option when you need to stay seated–simply move your foot up and down by contracting your calf and shin muscles.
• Keep moving. If you are on a plane or train, walk up and down the aisle every hour or so. In addition to walking, find a spot to do calf raise exercises–come up on your toes and back down–to help increase circulation.
• Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
• Talk to your doctor about wearing compression stockings during your trip.
• Be sure to take a nice walk once you have left the plane, train or car. This will get your circulation going again.
• Do not drink alcohol. It can make you drowsy and keep you from moving.
• Do not take sleeping medicine. A deep sleep will keep you still for too long a time.
For more tips and information, visit www.aaos.org/dvt or call (800) 824-BONES.