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George Kovacik
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GGKovacik@HoustonMethodist.org
 

DVT Ruins Holidays

Houston, TX - 11/13/2013

Many people will hop on a plane or get into their car and travel long distances to see family members over the holidays. They will worry about presents, food and the weather, but most will not give a second thought to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that could kill holiday fun in an instant.

DVT is a condition where blood clots form in the deep vein of the lower legs and thighs. Sitting for long periods of time, either in an airplane or car can limit circulation in the legs, leading to a blood clot forming in the vein. The clot can travel unnoticed through the blood stream and lodge in the brain, lungs, heart and other areas causing severe damage to organs, and in some cases, death. The good news is that you can avoid the problem very easily.

“If you plan to travel overseas or cross country, make sure you get up and walk around at least every two hours, and try not to sleep more than four hours at a time,” said Dr. Alan Lumsden, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. “Drink plenty of water or juices, wear loose-fitting clothing, eat light meals and limit alcohol consumption.”

Lumsden adds it would not be a bad idea, especially for people with venous problems or the elderly, to wear compression stockings that help prevent clots from forming in the deep veins.

In addition, if you do not have a chance to get up every couple of hours, the following exercise can be done while sitting down:

  • Extend both legs and move both feet back and forth in a circular motion.
  • Move the knee up to the chest and hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  • Put both feet on the floor and point them upward. Also, put both feet flat and lift both heels as high as possible.

Some two million Americans are stricken with DVT every year and nearly 200,000 die.

DVT is most often found in people over 60, but can occur in any age group. The most famous death due to DVT involved late NBC reporter, David Bloom, who got DVT in 2003 while embedded with U.S. Troops in the Iraq War. He was 39.

“Symptoms include pain and tenderness, swelling, redness, and increased warmth in one leg,” Lumsden said. “In some cases, a physician might suggest that a patient go on blood thinners or simply take an aspirin before and during a long trip to avoid DVT.”

Lumsden adds if you are pregnant, have a history of heart disease, cancer or blood clots, you should always consult with your physician before taking part in long travel.

“The last thing we think about when we are going to see loved ones for the holidays is DVT,” Lumsden said. “But it’s a very serious condition that can simply be avoided by getting up and moving around.”

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