Preventing Blood Clots While You Are in the Hospital

This information explains what a blood clot is and how you can prevent one from developing during your hospital stay.

Blood clots occur most often in people who do not move around, or have had surgery or an injury. Having cancer also increases your risk of developing a blood clot. While you are in the hospital, you may have several of these risk factors at once.

What is a blood clot?

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in an arm or a leg. The clot causes a blockage in the vein, preventing normal blood flow. When a clot occurs in a leg or arm, it causes swelling, redness, and pain in the area. If left untreated, new clots may form. These could worsen swelling and pain, and lead to difficulty walking, infection, or skin ulcers.

A pulmonary embolus (PE) is a blood clot in an artery of the lung. Most of the time, it occurs when a blood clot in a deep vein in the leg breaks loose and travels to the lung. Once in the lung, it can block an artery. This can keep your body from getting enough oxygen. You may have shortness of breath, chest pain, and severe breathing problems. A PE can cause death if symptoms are not treated quickly.

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What can I do to prevent blood clots while in the hospital?

While you’re in the hospital, wear sequential compression device (SCD) sleeves as instructed by your healthcare team. SCDs are sleeves worn on your lower legs that inflate and deflate to help blood circulate. Please notify your nurse or patient care technician (PCT) if you notice the tubing is pinched or the pump is beeping.

Walk as recommended by your doctor. For most people, this means as much as you can tolerate. Walking 10 to 15 minutes several times every day is the safest way to reduce the risk of a blood clot while you’re in the hospital.

Take anticoagulation medications (blood thinners) as prescribed by your healthcare provider. These medications reduce the chance of a blood clot forming.

Tell a member of your healthcare team right away if you have any of the following in your legs:

  • Pain or discomfort
  • New swelling
  • Change in the color or temperature of your skin
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