NEW ORLEANS - During Hurricane Season, many of us spend long hours in the car evacuating to distant locations, likely several more hours than we'd normally have planned for. That time spent sitting without getting up to move around and stretch can lead to potential problems that are similar to long flights known as DVT or blood clots.
"Deep-vein thrombosis sounds complicated, but it's simply a blood clot, or thrombosis, that forms in the deep veins of the leg. DVT can be life threatening if it travels to the lung and becomes a pulmonary embolism and blocks circulation," explains Dr. Steven Deitelzweig, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chairman of Hospital Medicine at Ochsner. Every year, up to two million people in the U.S. suffer from DVT and approximately 600,000 Americans are hospitalized for DVT and its primary complication, pulmonary embolism (PE). Complications from blood clots (DVT) kill more Americans annually than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
"We want people to know that the risks associated with blood clots (DVT and PE) can be reduced exponentially if they just learn the symptoms and communicate with their doctor and we hope to get this message across to our community," explains Karen Rice, RN, Program Director for Nursing Research at Ochsner. "The signs and symptoms of DVT, which include:
- Swelling and tenderness
- Discoloration or redness in the affected area
- Skin that is warm to the touch
Also, signs and symptoms of PE include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain with inspiration
- Coughing up blood
While certain individuals may be more at risk for developing blood clots (DVT), it can occur in anyone. "Sitting in prone positions for extended periods of time can restrict circulation and potentially lead to clots," explains Debbie Simonson, Director of Pharmacy at Ochsner.
Anyone traveling long distances for evacuations, and individuals with the following conditions are at an increased risk for DVT:
- Cancer patients
- 65+ years old
- Restricted mobility: travel or illness
- Predisposition to clotting
- Taking birth control pills
- Hormone Replacement Therapy