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Blood clots and VTE: am I at risk?

Peninsula Health Clinical Pharmacist, Esther Liu, celebrating World Thrombosis Day 2020.

Blood clots in the veins can affect people of all ages.

That’s why this World Thrombosis Day, our Pharmacy Department wants everyone in the Peninsula Health community to be aware of the key signs and symptoms of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE).

VTE is a condition whereby blood clots form in a person’s deep veins (‘deep vein thrombosis’), which can travel and lodge in the person’s lungs (‘pulmonary embolism’). VTE can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

“One of the most important things you can do is to learn if you are at risk of developing a blood clot – for example, having an extended hospital stay, engaging in long-distance travel, or if you are a smoker,” says Peninsula Health Clinical Pharmacist, Esther Liu. “It’s also important to know the key signs and symptoms, and that you seek medical attention immediately if needed. Following these steps could save your life!”

Main causes and risk factors of VTE

According to World Thrombosis Day (WTD), hospitalisation is one of the main causes of VTE. In fact, in Australia, there are 30,000 cases of VTE each year arising from hospitalisation.

Per WTD, other key risk factors include:

  • extended hospital stays
  • surgery (especially hip, knee and cancer-related surgery)
  • long periods of inactivity
  • age (60+)
  • family history of blood clots
  • cancer/chemotherapy
  • trauma
  • estrogen-based medication
  • obesity
  • pregnancy or recent birth
  • smoking and alcohol consumption

Key warning signs and symptoms

According to WTD, key warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
    • pain, tenderness, swelling redness or warmth in the leg/ankle/foot
  • Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
    • problems with breathing: shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid breathing
    • increased heart rate
    • light-headedness or passing out

What should I do to prevent VTE?

According to Esther, if anyone experiences symptoms of VTE, they should seek immediate medical attention as it can be fatal.

“VTE is a serious condition like heart attacks and strokes, but many people are not aware of it,” says Esther. “Make sure you learn if you are at risk, and know the signs and symptoms.” 

In addition, if anyone is in hospital for an extended period of time, they should ask their doctor whether they have had a VTE assessment. For those who have had surgery and been prescribed anti-clotting medication, they should complete the course.

For more information, speak with your doctor or pharmacist, or visit the World Thrombosis Day website.