BY ILENE RAYMOND RUSH
IN ;;;;, Columbus, Ohio, resident Sara
Wyen took a Saturday-morning run,
returning with pain in her left leg. A half-marathoner, Wyen, then ;;, iced and elevated her leg to treat what she thought was
an old knee injury.
“It felt like a charley horse,” she said,
“but behind my knee.” Later, a second pain
started in her left side, below her breast.
By Sunday, Wyen couldn’t walk, speak
in full sentences or draw a deep breath.
When she called her physician, he said,
“You need to go to the emergency room.
You have something called a pulmonary
embolism. I believe your life is in danger.”
A silent killer
When a clot forms deep in the leg, it is
known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If
that clot breaks off, travels through the
bloodstream and lodges in a lung, it’s
called a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Together, DVT and PE are known as
venous thromboembolism, or V TE, a dangerous and potentially deadly condition.
VTE affects as many as ;;;,;;; people in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Up
to ;;;,;;; Americans die each year from
Symptoms of DVT include swelling in
one leg, pain or tenderness, reddish or bluish skin discoloration and warmth. PE can
cause sharp chest pain, difficulty breathing, palpitations and light-headedness.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms
should call ;;; immediately or go to an
emergency room, where an ultrasound can
determine the presence of a clot.
“What we’re talking about is the formation of clots inside blood vessels or
veins when they shouldn’t form,” says Gary
Raskob, professor and dean of public
health at the University of Oklahoma.
Two-thirds of blood clots occur as a
result of hospitalization or after hospitalization, says Dr. Jack Ansell of the
National Blood Clot Alliance. He recommends a proactive response: “When you
enter the hospital for surgery, ask your
doctor, ‘What are you going to do to prevent a blood clot in my leg?’ More and
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more doctors are aware of the problem
and are using low doses of blood thinners
to prevent blood clots.”
Immobility, which causes blood to
pool in the veins; problems with proteins
in the blood that balance bleeding and
clotting; and damage to a vein or blood
vessel caused by injury or surgery can all
spur blood clots.
To combat clots, experts suggest moving around every two or three hours if
you’ve been sitting in a car, plane or train;
maintaining a healthy weight; and quit-ting or avoiding smoking.
Back in the swing
After ;; days in the hospital, Wyen
went home in a wheelchair, on oxygen, her
legs encased in compression stockings to
aid circulation, and on Coumadin, a blood
thinner, convinced that “my life was over.”
Her doctor told her to expect a one- to two-year recovery.
Treatment for VTE often involves
blood thinners. While older anticoagulants required frequent tests to check if
dosages were in a therapeutic range, newer
drugs are more predictable and have fewer
dietary restrictions, says Dr. Elaine
Chiang, a hematologist at Penn Medicine.
“Once you have a clot, it’s important to
see a hematologist, a doctor specializing in
thrombosis and clotting disorders,” she
says. “Having a blood clot is not a one-
and-done issue. We need to evaluate if
blood thinners are doing their job and if
they need to be adjusted down the road.”
Recently, Wyen’s doctor told her, “You
were so sick, Sara, I didn’t know if you’d
“I’m really fortunate,” she says. C
Ilene Raymond Rush is a freelance health writer.
National Blood Clot Alliance
World Thrombosis Day
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video with information
on thrombosis treatment and prevention. (See page 10 for details.)
of a blood clot