British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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Blood clots are a small clump of blood that form a gel-like substance. While a certain amount of clotting is necessary as it prevents excessive bleeding from cuts, clots that don’t dissolve naturally can cause problems. This is because they can travel to other parts of the body and restrict blood flow.
Serious examples of this are strokes caused by blood clots and pulmonary embolisms – where the clot travels to the lungs.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is one such dangerous condition caused by a clot.
It occurs when a clot forms in a larger vein, usually in the leg.
This is reason for concern as the blood can break away and reach other parts of the body.
Typical causes of DVT include if you:
- Are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you cannot move around much are confined to bed
- Go on a long journey by plane, car or train
- Are pregnant or if you’ve had a baby in the previous six weeks
- Are dehydrated.
However, in the case of one 42-year-old patient a blood clot developed due to a sporting injury.
A case study, published in Thrombosis Journal, detailed how the Polish-born former semi-professional football player was diagnosed with DVT.
His first symptom was “right leg pain”.
The case study explained: “The patient had been playing soccer 10 days prior to this visit, and recalled a traumatic ‘tackle’ injury to the posterior area of his right lower extremity.
“He denied experiencing any sensation of tearing or popping in the right knee during the index trauma, and was able to complete the game with only minor discomfort.
“On day three post-injury the patient noted severe pain in his knee and calf with ambulation (walking without assistance).
“The patient visited his primary doctor on post-injury day eight and was diagnosed with a right lower extremity soft tissue injury.”
Testing revealed the patient was suffering from thrombosis and he was immediately sent to the emergency department for further evaluation and treatment.
He was prescribed anticoagulants – medicines to prevent clotting – including heparin and warfarin.
Within six days he was discharged and he remained on warfarin for six months.
However, a year on he still continued to suffer from “intermittent” right lower extremity discomfort and swelling “often unrelated” to activity. He underwent surgery on his right knee and attended appointments with an orthopedist to treat this.
The study concluded: “This case study illustrates the importance of considering deep vein thrombosis in the diagnosis of sport-related extremity trauma.
“DVT is classically related to venous stasis (slow blood flow), intimal injury (injury to the inner layer of the artery), and coagulation diathesis (increased tendency to bleed or bruise).
“The estimated incidence of DVT from all causes is 0.5 to 1.6 per 1,000 persons per year, and may be an underestimation due to the number of DVT that are asymptomatic.”
Common symptoms of DVT include:
- Throbbing or cramping pain in one leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh
- Swelling in one leg (rarely both legs)
- Warm skin around the painful area
- Red or darkened skin around the painful area
- Swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them.
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