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I just had surgery. What are the signs of a DVT (blood clot)?

The kind of blood clot that your doctor or nurse may have warned you about if you recently had surgery (especially surgery of the leg) is called a DVT.  DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis.  This term refers to the formation of a blood clot in a vein deep within your leg or arm.  Once a DVT forms, it may stay put and block normal blood flow in the affected body part or it can break off and travel to your lungs where it is then termed a PE or pulmonary embolism.  A pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency (it can kill you) so it is extremely important to recognize the signs of a DVT (blood clot) before it’s too late.

 

Here are 5 of the most common signs of DVT (blood clot).

 

1.)  Pain:

You will be most likely to notice pain when squeezing the effected limb or using the muscle to walk, stand, etc.

 

2.)  Swelling:

This is typically most noticeable in the calf/foot or forearm/hand

 

3.)  Heat:

After knee or hip surgery for example, it is normal to have warmth in the area surrounding your incision, but watch out for later development of heat in the thigh, calf, or foot.

 

4.)  Skin discoloration:

Blotchiness or patchy redness are signs of possible DVT

 

5.)  Cramping pain:

Because DVTs block normal blood flow you may develop cramping pain when using your muscle to walk or move because the muscle is not getting the blood that it needs to function correctly.

 

If you experience one or more of the above symptoms, call your doctor or nurse.  They will ask you more questions and may have you come in for tests to rule out a blood clot.  Don’t worry, the initial testing is not painful or invasive.

*Note:  most of the examples above pertain to a DVT in the leg, but remember that they can also form in the arm.  And they’re not always related to surgery.  Your risk for DVT increases when your activity decreases for reasons other that surgery too.  Examples include being in bed sick for a couple days, being unable to walk due to a broken leg, sitting still on a flight or in a car for several hours, etc.

Signs of PE (meaning that you developed a DVT that broke loose and made its way to your lungs) include:

  1. Sharp chest pain, especially related to taking a deep breath in.

  2. Coughing up blood

  3. Racing heart rate

  4. Shortness of breath

  5. Severe lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting

If you develop any of these signs of a PE, CALL 911 immediately!  This is a life threatening emergency.

 

Be prepared to recognize these signs of DVT and PT in yourself or a loved one.  Click here for a pocket-sized printable cheat sheet.  You can save it for later or print it out.

 

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