Venous thromboembolism

Blood clumps can form in the circulatory system, interrupting or restricting blood circulation, which can lead to life-threatening situations. The process of blood clump formation is called thrombosis and clotted blood clumps are called thrombi. Thrombus particles can also generate and release embolus (travelling thrombus) that travels in the blood and causes vascular obstructions elsewhere. Thrombosis and embolism are closely related, and that is why the term thromboembolism is often used.

Venous thromboembolism includes two related conditions - deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Venous thrombosis is a condition where clot or thrombus occurs within the vein, hindering the circulation of blood throughout the circulatory system. Pulmonary embolism is a blockage of pulmonary artery, which frequently causes clots that travel through the blood and block the crossing of the main pulmonary artery or one of its branches. This causes a variety of pathological changes, which are reflected in the respiratory and circulatory problems.

A complication with non-specific symptoms and multiple risk factors

Venous thromboembolism, in addition to heart attack and stroke, is one of the most common causes of sudden cardiovascular complications. According to some estimates, the U.S. have around 300,000 – 600,000 new cases of venous thromboembolism discovered annually.

Symptoms and signs cannot be distinguished with certainty from other conditions. Main symptoms result from pulmonary embolism. Amongst them are sudden and rapid breathing difficulties, chest pain when inhaling, coughing, and coughing up blood. These signs may also occur with other illnesses, such as pneumonia, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumothorax and some others.

There are many risk factors that increase the risk of venous thromboembolism. The most important are blood clotting disorders, prolonged sitting or lying down, immobilization, postoperative state, trauma of pelvis, hip or lower extremities, positive family history and consumption of birth control pills.

Prevention and therapy

Prevention of the development of venous thromboembolism is associated with preventive measures that reduce the chances of blood clots.

After four hours of continuous sitting, the risk of a blood clotting is doubled, so prolonged sitting should be avoided. On longer flights it is recommended to stretch at least once every hour.

It is recommended to wear loose-fitting clothes that do not impair blood flow and drinking coffee and alcoholic beverages, which cause dehydration and lead to more viscous blood, should be avoided.

Proper lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet, maintaining proper body weight, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption, has a significant influence on health. In the case of deep venous thrombosis it is recommended to wear special elastic socks.

The aim of treating deep vein thrombosis is to prevent further disease progression. Patients are prescribed with drugs called warfarin and low molecular weight heparin which you inject each day under the skin of the abdomen. After about five days, heparin injection is no longer necessary. Warfarin pills though should be taken for several months or years.

Pulmonary thromboembolism is treated with thrombolytics, in particular, medicaments meant for dissolving blood clots (streptokinase, tissue plasminogen activator) with anticoagulants meant for preventing the formation of clots (heparin, coumarin derivatives), with analgesics and oxygen. Treatment of pulmonary embolism begins immediately after diagnosis.