If you're admitted to hospital or planning to go into hospital for surgery, your risk of developing a blood clot while you're there will be assessed.
Surgery and some medical treatments can increase your risk of developing DVT – see causes of DVT for more information.
If you're thought to be at risk of developing DVT, your healthcare team can take a number of measures to prevent a blood clot forming.
Before going into hospital
If you're going into hospital to have an operation, and you're taking the combined contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), you'll be advised to temporarily stop taking your medication four weeks before your operation.
Similarly, if you're taking medication to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you may be advised to stop taking it one week before your operation.
There's less risk of getting DVT when having a local anaesthetic
compared with a general anaesthetic. Your doctor will discuss whether it's possible for you to have a local anaesthetic.
While you're in hospital
There are a number of things your healthcare team can do to help reduce your risk of getting DVT while you're in hospital.
For example, they'll make sure you have enough to drink so you don't become dehydrated, and they'll also encourage you to move around as soon as you're able to.
Depending on your risk factors and individual circumstances, a number of different medications can be used to help prevent DVT. For example:
- anticoagulant medicines – such as dabigatran etexilate or fondaparinux sodium, which are often used to help prevent blood clots after certain types of surgery, including orthopaedic surgery
- low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) – often used in many cases to help prevent blood clots, including during and shortly after pregnancy
- unfractionated heparin (UFH) – often used in people with severe kidney impairment or established kidney failure
Compression stockings or compression devices are also commonly used to help keep the blood in your legs circulating.
Compression stockings are worn around your feet, lower legs and thighs, and fit tightly to encourage your blood to flow more quickly around your body.
Compression devices are inflatable and work in the same way as compression stockings, inflating at regular intervals to squeeze your legs and encourage blood flow.
Your healthcare team will usually advise you to walk regularly after you've been prescribed compression stockings. Keeping mobile can help prevent the symptoms of DVT returning and may help prevent or improve complications of DVT, such as post-thrombotic syndrome.
Read more about treating DVT.
When you leave hospital
You may need to continue to take anticoagulant medicine and wear compression stockings when you leave hospital.
Before you leave, your healthcare team should advise you about how to use your treatment, how long to continue using it for, and who to contact if you experience any problems.
You can reduce your risk of getting DVT by making changes to your lifestyle, such as:
See your GP before long-distance travel if you're at risk of getting a DVT, or if you've had a DVT in the past.
If you're planning a long-distance plane, train or car journey (journeys of six hours or more), make sure you:
- drink plenty of water
- avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol because it can cause dehydration
- avoid taking sleeping pills because they can cause immobility
- perform simple leg exercises, such as regularly flexing your ankles
- take occasional short walks when possible – for example, during refuelling stopovers
- wear elastic compression stockings
Read more about preventing DVT when you travel.
If you're travelling abroad, it's very important to ensure you're prepared should you or a family member fall ill.
Make sure you have full travel insurance to cover the cost of any healthcare you may need while abroad. This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer or heart disease, which may increase your risk of developing DVT.
DVT can be a very serious condition, and it's important you receive medical assistance as soon as possible. Treating DVT promptly will help minimise the risk of complications.
Read more about travel health.