Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolus- Are you at risk?

This topic has come to the forefront in my life recently and in doing so, it is a great reminder of things we should all be doing. With the ongoing COVID pandemic, many of us are spending more time in our homes and it can be easy to also spend more time inactive, and spend more time on the couch.  Inactivity can leave you at risk for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus otherwise known as DVT and PE.  These conditions can happen for a number of reasons but today we will concentrate on inactivity.  It doesn’t take as long as you would think to develop a clot. Inactivity of a number of hours such as a long plane or car ride can cause them, or as I believe in my case, sitting for long period of time doing tele health visits.  The clot forms in the veins in the legs and many times just stays there which is known as a DVT.  

Symptoms of DVT are pain and swelling in the leg.  It can sometimes be accompanied by a redness to the leg as well but not always. It is extremely important if you develop new swelling or pain in the legs that you advise your doctor immediately so testing can be done. Testing consists of a Doppler study that views blood flow and looks for clotting. 

Sometimes these clots can break away from the legs and travel to a final resting place in the lungs known as a PE. This is a life threatening condition and requires immediate attention in an emergency room setting. Symptoms of a PE are acute shortness of breath, fast heart rate, chest pain-often worse with breathing in.  A CT of the chest is done to confirm this diagnosis.  

Both of these conditions are treatable with anti coagulation therapy using one of the numerous blood thinners out there. They can be monitored by your primary care physician. You may also be referred to a pulmonologist and hematologist.

There are some important steps you can take to lesson your chance of getting a DVT/PE. As we are staying home more, it is so important that we take time to get up and walk around frequently.  Put the movie on pause every couple hours and take a walk around your house.  While you are watching the movie exercise with your legs. Simulate pressing the gas pedal in the car on and off a number of times whenever you are in a stationary sitting position.  Also bend your knee joint and hip joint a number of times as well.  I know that it’s hot and it might not be the coolest Arizona wear, but consider wearing compression socks, especially when you are going to be inactive.   

The most important thing to remember is to keep exercising those legs and follow up with your doctor for any concerning symptom.  Enjoy every breath. 

Author
Shauna Papa, RN Shauna Papa has been working with Dr. Baker as his nurse for 3 years now. She enjoys working closely with him to develop plans of care to help people in pain. Her favorite aspect of her job is seeing her patients return to their lives after receiving relief from debilitating pain conditions. She participates yearly in Pain Week in Las Vegas where she keeps up on all of the the latest advancements in pain management. Prior to working in pain management, Shauna worked extensively in trauma and emergency medicine both in the Phoenix area, and in Denver. In her time away from the office, Shauna enjoys spending time with her husband Randy and their 3 dogs Shilo, Ozzy and Baxter. She is a football fan and in keeping with her Denver roots, is a Denver Bronco super fan.

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