How does a thrombosis develop?
Following an operation involving the lower limbs there is always an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis. The relative immobilisation and the operation mean that the blood is in an elevated state to form blood clots. This specifically applies to the veins in the lower limbs. When a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg, this constitutes deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In the case of deep vein thrombosis it is considerably more difficult for the blood to flow back to the heart, and a severe, general swelling of the leg occurs relatively quickly. This is accompanied by pain, redness and heat. Consult your doctor immediately if you present these symptoms after your operation, or during your cast immobilisation.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed medication is administered to stop the clot forming process. A DVT will also make the recovery process slower and more challenging. It is also potentially dangerous for the heart and the lungs. If the thrombosis comes loose it can enter the lungs via the heart, and cause a pulmonary embolism. In certain circumstances a pulmonary embolism can have fatal consequences. Therefore, prevention is extremely important. If after your operation you were advised to take preventive medication (injections or pills) and supplied with white support stockings (TED stockings): please follow these guidelines carefully. Being mobile and performing sufficient muscle contractions is just as important in this prevention, even if you must not put weight on the leg. The muscle pump in your calf is important to promote the blood flow back to your heart. Your physiotherapist will teach you a number of exercises that you must perform several times a day, especially if you have been prescribed bed rest. The following video clips provide more information.
Video: Deep vein thrombosis
Video: Preventing deep vein thrombosis
This content was written by : Dr. Paul Gunst, Dr. Thomas Luyckx, Dr. Lieven Missinne, Dr. Jan Noyez, Dr. Peter Stuer, Dr. Alexander Ryckaert, Dr. Luc Van den Daelen, Dr. Philip Winnock de Grave