Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
If you are immobile for an extended period of time because of surgery, pregnancy, illness, or travel, you may be at risk for deep vein thrombosis, or DVT,
a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, typically the leg.
Unlike arteries, which rely on the heart to force blood through them, veins transport blood with the help of muscle contractions while you move and walk.
Veins also have valves that keep blood from flowing backward and pooling in your arms and legs.
When you are immobile for an extended period, your venous circulation slows down.
As a result, clotting factors in the blood may cause the slow-moving blood to clump together, forming a blood clot, or “thrombus.”
This condition is called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT.
Common symptoms of DVT include: Swelling of the leg or a vein in the leg, pain or tenderness in the area, increased warmth in the skin, and red or discolored skin.
In some DVT cases, a blood clot may detach from a deep vein and join the blood stream.
The clot travels from the deep veins of the leg, through the veins of the abdomen, into the heart, and finally lodges in the pulmonary artery or its branches, blocking blood flow to the lungs.
This condition, called pulmonary embolism, is very serious and may permanently damage a portion of the lung.
If a clot is large, or if there are many clots, pulmonary embolism may also cause death.
If you experience symptoms of PE, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately.
These symptoms may include: shortness of breath, a sudden sharp pain in the chest, a feeling of light-headedness or dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat,
or coughing that produces blood.
To help prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, your doctor may require you to do the following:
walk around periodically to keep the blood from pooling in your legs, wear compression stockings, and take anti-clotting medication.