Venous thromboembolism (VTE), or thrombosis, refers to life-threatening blood clots that form in the artery or vein. A clot in the vein (usually in the leg or pelvis) is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a clot that breaks off and travels to the lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the umbrella term for both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).
A blood clot can form inside one of the veins in your body, most commonly the leg, usually because the vein is damaged or because blood flow is slow or has stopped - this is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If this DVT or blood clot comes loose, it can travel through your bloodstream to your lungs. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE) and it can be fatal.
Deep vein thrombosis
The most common symptom of deep vein thrombosis is pain, swelling, tenderness or an aching sensation in one leg, which is usually in the calf below the knee. The skin will usually feel warm and look red too. If these symptoms are present, a medical assessment should be carried out as soon as possible.
The main signs of a pulmonary embolism is breathlessness and chest pain. Pulmonary embolisms can be life threatening and need urgent medical attention.
Most people associate deep vein thrombosis with sitting for hours on long haul flights but there are other risk factors. These include having recently had surgery, having an inherited medical condition associated with clotting, being overweight, smoking, being inactive and being dehydrated. Certain medications can also increase the risk.
There are four simple ways to minimise your risk of developing a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis:
- Keep hydrated - make sure you are drinking enough
- Keep moving - take a regular short walks
- Stop smoking
- Keep weight within a healthy range
Our Trust has established a task and finish group to focus on VTE prevention.
The group has reviewed NICE guideline and developed an action plan for the next 12 months to ensure that, as an organisation, we are compliant with the guidelines. This group is currently working on developing Trust VTE prevention guidance and conducting an audit of inpatient services, following a review of the VTE assessment tool used in inpatient services.
For staff there are a number of short e-learning courses available on OLM that educate on the causes and symptoms of VTE and how to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms occurring.
You can view these below:
For medics, there are a number of BMJ modules available (BMJ sign-in details will be required):
- You can download a poster about poster about VTE prevention here
- You can download an information leaflet for service users and carers here
- You can read a case study about Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) here