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Blood Clot in the Legs (cont.)

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Prevention

The key to prevention is to reverse any risk factors, for example:

  • Lose weight if overweight or obese.
  • Avoid periods of prolonged immobility. Get up and move around every 15 to 30 minutes during long plane flights. Do simple stretching exercises while seated. Make frequent stops and get out of the car when driving long distances.
  • Keep the legs elevated while sitting down or in bed.
  • Avoid high-dose estrogen pills, unless they are deemed necessary by the doctor.

In the case of recent surgery, preventive treatment may be prescribed to avoid formation of a clot.

  • The patient may be instructed to get out of bed several times a day during the recovery period.
  • Sequential compression devices (SCDs) may be placed on the legs. Their squeezing action has been shown to reduce the probability of clot formation. The patient may also be given elastic compression socks or stockings to wear.
  • Low-molecular-weight heparin or low-dose warfarin may be prescribed to prevent clot formation.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Prognosis

    Most DVTs resolve on their own. If a PE occurs, the prognosis can be more severe.

    • About 25% of people who have a PE will die suddenly, and that will be the only symptom.
    • About 23% of people with PE will die within 3 months of diagnosis, just over 30% will die after 6 months, and there is a 37% mortality (death) rate at 1 year after being diagnosed.

    If an individual has had one deep vein thrombosis, they are more likely than the average person to have another deep vein thrombosis.

    • The CDC estimates 33% of people with DVT/PE will have a recurrence within 10 years.
    • Recurrence of DVT is more common in patients with risk factors such as cancer or inherited blood-clotting problems. Recurrence is less common in patients who have short-term risk factors, such as surgery or temporary inactivity.
    • Closely follow the prevention instructions from the doctor.
    • Anticoagulant therapy lowers the death rate from pulmonary embolism significantly.


    “Venous Thromboembolism (Blood Clots).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 22 June 2015.

    “How Is Pulmonary Embolism Treated?” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 1 July 2011.

    “Deep Vein Thrombosis – Causes.” NHS Choices Information. 6 March 2014.

    Dentali, F., et al. “Pulmonary embolism severity index accurately predicts long-term mortality rate in patients hospitalized for acute pulmonary embolism.” Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis . 11.12 (2013): 2103-2120.

    Litzendorf, M. E. and B Satiani. “Superficial venous thrombosis: disease progression and evolving treatment approaches.” Vascular Health and Risk Management. 7 (2011): 569-575.

    Lucena, J., et al. “Pulmonary embolism and sudden-unexpected death: prospective study on 2477 forensic autopsies performed at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Seville.” Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 16.4 (2009): 196-201.

    Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/28/2015

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