Are you high risk for blood clots?
Some recent high-profile blood clot injuries or deaths could help bring public awareness. Anne Rose is a clinical pharmacist at UW Health in Madison. She says blood-clot related deaths are more common than most people realize — 2 million people are diagnosed each year with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), one third of whom die. “In the state of Wisconsin alone, the surgeon general reports anywhere from 6,000 to 11,000 people in the state of Wisconsin will develop one of these types of clots. About 2,000 people in Wisconsin will die from them.”
About 600,000 of DVT patients nationwide develop a pulmonary embolism (PE) — a clot that traveled from the limbs to the lungs — and of those, 200,000 die. Blood clots don’t discriminate against just the old or sick. Anyone is susceptible, including otherwise healthy, young individuals.
Rose says the most common risk factor is inactivity, especially after surgery, during long-distance travel, or at an office cubicle. The best preventive measure is to move; keep the blood circulating.
How would you know if you had a clot in your leg? “Having a swollen calf that might feel very painful, even just to like a light tough; it may feel warm or look red; and usually it’s happening in one leg more than the other leg.” If you’ve got a blood clot in the lungs, you might notice some different symptoms. “You might feel short of breath, even if you’re just resting; have some sharp chest pains; increased heart rate; you may feel sweaty; or even cough up blood.”
Rose works regularly with patients who are at high risk for blood clots. Family history is a significant risk factor, as is smoking, pregnancy, birth control, obesity, dehydration, a past clot, injuries, and cancer patients. Some people have a clotting disorder — such as Factor V — and don’t even know it. It causes their blood to thicken more easily. A regular chest X-ray will not show blood clots in the lungs. Closer examination is necessary.
In November 2011, rap artist Heavy D died of a blood clot in his lung. In March 2011, tennis player Serena Williams was hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism. Just a couple of weeks ago Mariah Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, announced he had life-threatening clots, and there’s David Bloom. The young NBC reporter who began his TV career in La Crosse died suddenly of DVT near his “Bloom Mobile” while covering the war in Iraq in 2003.
During National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 4-10), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the ASHP Research and Education Foundation want the public to be aware of blood clot risk factors, signs, and what they can do to prevent clots, especially if they will soon be going into the hospital.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:08