This leaflet is for young people aged 13-17 to explain the condition ‘venous thromboembolism’ (or ‘VTE’) and to explore measures to reduce the risk of VTE during their stay in hospital.
What is VTE?
VTE is where a blood clot (called a thrombus) forms in a vein. The most common is a deep vein thrombosis or DVT which occurs in the deep veins of the legs. This can happen when you are inactive for a period of time and slow moving blood collects in one area and forms a clot. If the blood clot then moves and travels in the blood, it is known as an embolism.
VTE is a serious condition that can cause severe pains, swelling, skin changes and sudden collapse. When you come to the ward the doctor will undertake an assessment to see if anything needs to be done to try and stop you developing a VTE. Correct management of any risks means you would be unlikely to get a VTE during your stay in hospital.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can develop a blood clot but there are a variety of other factors that can contribute to developing a VTE:
- Previous history of blood clots
- Family history of blood clots
- Inactivity (such as after an operation or being confined to bed)
- Being overweight
- Certain types of surgery
- Being on the oral contraceptive pill
- Being pregnant or having recently given birth.
What are the likely symptoms of a VTE?
- Pain and swelling of one leg
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
If you experience any of these during your hospital stay, please inform a nurse or doctor immediately.
How can you prevent VTE during your hospital stay?
It is important that you do not become dehydrated and unless you are ‘nil by mouth’ (not able to eat or drink) you must make sure that you drink plenty.
You should move around as much as you can while in hospital. The nursing staff will tell you if you are able to walk around and they will be able to help support you to get up and out of bed regularly. If you have to stay in bed, change your position as much as possible. Once the physiotherapist, doctor or nurse has told you that you are able to get out of bed, do this as much as possible.
Depending on your assessment at the start of your hospital stay you may need to wear compression stockings or be given an anticoagulant medication. These will be discussed further with you if it is decided that you would benefit from any of these.
How long am I at risk after I go home?
You may be at risk for some time once you are at home, depending on your general health and the level of time it takes for you to return to your normal levels of activity. You can also help reduce the risk by taking regular exercise and drinking plenty of fluids.
Doctors and nurses will talk to you before you leave for home if you need to continue wearing compression stockings or taking anticoagulation medication.
If you notice any of the symptoms of a VTE when you are home you must contact your local doctor as soon as possible.
References/ Sources of evidence
Reducing the risk of blood clots (‘VTE’) Cambridge University Hospitals NHS
Foundation Trust Patient Information Leaflet (2010)
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