Dec 122013
Simon Noble

Simon Noble

Mike Fealey

Mike Fealey

This post was adapted from a presentation produced by Simon Noble

“Do you remember the scare about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) linked to long haul flights? Did you quiver every time you got on a jumbo for an eight-hour flight? I bet you were wearing your anti-embolism stockings and did all of the exercises along with all your fellow passengers?

And why wouldn’t you? The TV and the newspapers had explained the risks to you as they pushed this story. They pushed it so hard that they pushed it into the realms of fantasy. “MILLIONS AT RISK IN NEW LONG-HAUL FLIGHT SCARE” screamed the Daily Mail front page.

It got so silly that they started parodying their own headlines (click in the middle of the Vine above to stop it when it’s showing the comic). So here’s the important question. Are you more at risk of acquiring a DVT in the following situations:

A) On a long-haul flight?
B) By being admitted to hospital?

Those of you who answered B, go to the top of the class! Research estimates that, if unprevented, 16,000 people could die each year from a Hospital Acquired Thrombosis (HAT). And sadly, like other conditions we highlight as part of our work in the 1000 Lives team, some of these deaths are preventable.

Who is most at risk?

Well, actually, we are ALL at risk. Even top class sportsmen! Michael Carberry, the current English cricket international was treated when the clots travelled to his lung in 2011. Freddie Flintoff was also treated for DVTs in 2009.

A DVT is a blood clot that forms (usually in the veins of the leg) when our blood flow is reduced or if our blood becomes more sticky. When our legs move, the action of the muscles help to push the blood through the veins.

And so if we are immobile for a length of time, this can increase the risk. There are other factors that can also exacerbate the problem, though:

Old age.
Oncology (having cancer and cancer treatment).
Obstetric (during pregnancy).
On-going medical conditions.
Operations (having surgery).

Each of these on its own increases the risk. If you have two or more together, the risk increases further. And so on.

What can be done?

Fortunately, the majority of hospital-acquired thromboses are preventable with appropriate prophylaxis. This requires patients being assessed to see if they are at risk and then being prescribed preventative measures such as blood thinning medicines and anti-embolism stockings.

What are we doing about it?

Welsh Government, in collaboration with clinical experts, have developed measures for all Health Boards and Trusts in Wales to help them understand the extent of the problem in their area and then develop strategies to tackle the incidence of HAT.

Alongside this, we are planning a publicity campaign, for the public and NHS staff alike, to make them aware of the risk factors and tell them what they can do about it.

Part of the campaign will focus on these areas in particular:

  • Understand the risk
  • Proper assessment on admission to hospital
  • Relevant prophylaxis if required

So keep your eyes open.

Mike Fealey is National Programme Manager for for 1000 Lives Improvement. Follow him @MikeFealey.

Simon Noble is chair of the All Wales Thrombosis Group, Palliative Care Consultant in Aneurin Bevan Health Board, and currently overseeing thrombosis-prevention for 1000 Lives Improvement. Follow him @SimonNoble.

Do you feel that your place of work is making people fully aware of the risks of DVT?

Do you think that the press did more harm than good with its attention-grabbing headlines?

Share your thoughts in a comment.

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