When you're planning to have surgery, you have much to think about and prepare for the big day. Knowing what to expect during recovery is one of the most vital aspects of preparing for surgery.
Blood clots are one of the major complications after surgery, but they are entirely preventable. Knowing how to prevent this condition before surgery ensures a safe recovery.
The Orthopaedic Specialists team helps you through every step of the surgical process. Dr. Brandon Downs, our orthopaedic surgeon, discusses tips on preventing blood clots before surgery.
What are blood clots?
Blood clots are a complication that's especially prevalent after surgery. However, you can also get a blood clot from a sedentary lifestyle and other risk factors.
A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in your legs due to blood cells sticking together. Your blood thickens, making it harder for cells to flow freely, which may lead to clot formation.
Blood clotting is essential when you have an injury or cut, but it isn't ideal when the clot forms within a vein in your body. The most common place for a clot to form after surgery is in the deep veins within your legs.
Some blood clots are painful and stay in your legs, while others can break off and travel to your lungs, causing a dangerous emergency.
Surgery puts you at a much higher risk for blood clots due to anesthesia, surgical time, and immobility after the procedure.
Blood clot symptoms
Understanding the symptoms of a blood clot before surgery is essential. Dr. Downs also suggests taking preventive steps before your procedure to reduce your risk of blood clots.
Quit smoking as soon as possible before surgery to prevent blood clots, and stay active in the weeks preceding your procedure.
Dr. Downs discusses the signs and symptoms of a blood clot at your pre-procedure appointment so you know what to look for during recovery. The main signs and symptoms of a blood clot in your leg or lungs include the following:
- Leg pain
- Leg swelling
- Redness or warmth
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain with breathing
A blood clot in your leg can break off and travel to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. If a pulmonary embolism occurs, it's a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate treatment.
Trouble breathing, sudden chest pain, and coughing up blood are all primary signs of a pulmonary embolism. Call 911 and go to the closest emergency room if you suspect this emergency.
Tips to prevent blood clots
After surgery, Dr. Downs may put you on blood thinners, medications that thin your blood to prevent clots. However, only some are good candidates for blood thinners, and he discusses this option with you before your procedure.
There are other steps you should take after surgery to prevent blood clots, which include the following:
Early movement is one of the best ways to prevent a clot from forming in your veins. Simple actions with your extremities increase blood flow, ultimately preventing blood clots.
We suggest leg lifts while you're in bed, squeezing your leg muscles, and rotating your ankles while lying or sitting.
In the first few days to weeks after surgery, Dr. Downs may suggest compression devices on your legs while in bed or sitting. Compression devices consisting of wraps go around your legs and hook up to a machine that inflates and deflates them.
The inflation of the wraps increases blood flow and keeps blood from pooling in your legs, which keeps clots from forming while you're immobile after surgery.
Compression stockings are tight-fitting stockings that improve blood flow in your legs. They're very snug and may be uncomfortable initially; however, they're crucial in preventing blood clots after surgery.
As you get farther into your recovery, you want to stay as active as possible. You likely get some activity at physical therapy, but early walking and light exercise is crucial to preventing blood clots.
To learn more about preventing blood clots after your procedure, don't hesitate to call Orthopaedic Specialists today or request an online appointment at one of our offices in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.