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[dropcap size=big]D[/dropcap]uring a long trip for your summer family vacation in the car or on an airplane, the urge to “stretch your legs” can do more than just ease aching muscles. One of the dangers of sitting in one position for an extended period is the development of blood clots. If you’re pregnant, obese, have varicose veins, are over 40-years-old, or have recently undergone orthopedic surgery, you are at risk!

Most blood clots are a consequence of other medical problems, but they can also occur in everyday life. The following are some common causes of dangerous blood clots to look out for:

  • Surgery, long drive or airplane flight, lying in bed/sitting for a long time = Diminished blood flow
  • Surgery or an injury = Damage to the blood vessels
  • Cancer or hereditary genes

Additionally, anyone can develop blood clots; however, certain people are more at risk.  If you fall into three or more of the following categories, you are at risk:

  • All hospital patients (bedridden immobility)
  • 40 years of age or older
  • Prolonged immobility (airplane/car travel)
  • Family or personal history of blood clots
  • Stroke or paralysis
  • Cancer patients
  • Trauma (abdomen, pelvis, hip, leg)
  • Obesity
  • Varicose veins
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Pregnant
  • Taking Estrogen
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Sepsis
  • Chronic Respiratory Failure
  • Major surgery (abdomen, pelvis, hip, leg)

Blood clots can form in both the arms and legs, however, a clot in the upper leg is most dangerous as it can travel to the heart and lungs causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). Symptoms of a large PE come on suddenly and include sharp chest pain, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, even sudden death. In contrast, a smaller PE may not have symptoms or cause any major problems.

Treatment of blood clots can generally be done at home with blood-thinning medications, such as Heparin™ and Coumadin™, and wearing elastic stockings for three to six months. However, the best preventive measures against developing blood clots include:

  • Inform your doctor of your risk if you are planning to undergo surgery or if you have an illness
  • Break up long, sedentary trips with short walks
  • Know your risk factors
  • Exercise
  • Know your family history
  • Take medications (low molecular weight Heparin™, other anti-thrombotics) available in the hospital


*This information is intended for general knowledge and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Information provided by Baylor Scott & White Health.

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