Government Tackles Preventable Blood Clot Condition DVT

September 17, 2008 10:31 AM
by Emily Coakley
Deep vein thrombosis kills roughly 100,000 Americans annually, and the U.S. government has just launched a campaign to increase awareness.

‘Silent Killer’

More than 300,000 Americans have problems with blood clots each year, says the acting U.S. Surgeon General.

“I don’t think most people understand that this is a serious medical problem or what can be done to prevent it,” said Dr. Steven Galson in an interview with the Associated Press.

Galson and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) have published guides to help patients and medical professionals learn more about blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.

Blood clots often form in the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis. If the clot breaks up, pieces can lodge in the brain or heart and potentially kill someone. Clots kill approximately 100,000 people each year, the Associated Press reported.

DVT contributed to the death of David Bloom, an NBC reporter. He died in 2003 while covering the war in Iraq. According to a 2006 USA Today article, Bloom had a genetic predisposition to clots and spent long hours confined to transatlantic flights and in tanks as part of his job. His widow, Melanie, is working with pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis to raise awareness of DVT. Sanofi makes Lovenox, a blood thinner, USA Today reported.

Deep vein thrombosis is also known as “economy class syndrome” because of the cramped conditions on airplanes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But it can also happen to travelers on cars, buses and trains.
The risk of DVT doesn’t mean people should be afraid to take trips.

“Experts stress that long flights almost never lead to DVT in individuals without pre-existing risk factors,” said the University of Alabama-Birmingham Health System Dear Doctor column.

Stanley Mohler, a retired aerospace medicine professor, told FDA Consumer Magazine that short flights aren’t problematic, but someone shouldn’t sit in their seat for an entire 12-hour flight. The magazine said DVT while traveling isn’t a problem for kids.

“Children who travel don’t appear to be at risk for DVT, says Mohler, because they are generally more active in their seats than adults.”

Experts recommend exercising on flights by periodically walking around or doing calf raises to keep blood moving. Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

DVT symptoms can appear up to 10 days after a flight, according to UAB. Anyone who has symptoms after traveling should call their doctor and mention the trip.

Reference: Risk assessment and AHRQ guides

The Coalition to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis has an online quiz which can help people determine their risk.

Besides publishing a guide to preventing blood clots, AHRQ has also created a guide to a type of blood thinner used to treat them: Warfarin. Another booklet is designed for doctors and hospitals.

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