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Never Event #5: Deep Vein Thrombosis / Pulmonary Embolism Following Surgery

Deep Vein Thrombosis / Pulmonary Embolism Following SurgeryWhat Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms inside the body.  Deep vein thrombosis usually occurs in the legs, arms and chest.  If a blood clot dislodges from the area where it initially formed it may get stuck in a smaller vein and block circulation of blood and cause organ problems. Deep vein thrombosis may cause problems in the lungs, brain, heart or other vital organs.  If not detected quickly, a blood clot may cause permanent damage or death.

Symptoms Of Deep Vein Thrombosis

  • May or may not be detected via manifestation of physical symptoms
  • Tenderness in arms, legs or chest
  • Pain or swelling of arms, legs, chest

Causes Of Deep Vein Thrombosis

  • Surgery or injury that restricts blood flow to a part of the body
  • Inherited conditions that increases blood clotting
  • History of heart attack or stroke
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity for long periods of time

What Is Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage of a major artery in the lung.  Generally, the blockage is caused by a blood clot.  The blood clots may cause permanent harm to the lung, but they usually do not cause death.  It is important to diagnose pulmonary embolism quickly to reduce the risk of permanent complications.

Symptoms Of Pulmonary Embolism

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Mucus that comes up when coughing
  • Sweats
  • Increased heart rate

Causes Of Pulmonary Embolism

  • Inactivity
  • Recent surgery in legs or abdomen
  • Severe infection
  • Obesity
  • Age (there is a higher risk of pulmonary embolism in people over 70)

Why Is Deep Vein Thrombosis And Pulmonary Embolism Following Hip & Knee Surgery On The ‘Never Event’ list?

First of all, hospital staff should be on the look out to identify the early stages of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in individuals who recently had hip or knee surgery.  In addition, hospital staff should take some or all of the following measures to reduce the risk of development of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism by:

  • Starting patients on blood thinners
  • Encouraging activity as soon as feasible following surgery
  • Giving patients extra fluid
  • Using compression stockings
  • Limiting the use of some medications which have been linked to blood clotting problems: Vioxx, Bextra and Celebrex

If you or a loved one have are scheduled for any type of othropedic surgery, discuss with your doctor the need for prophylactic treatment.  If you have suffered a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism following hip or knee surgery, contact a medical malpractice attorney to learn if you have a potential claim against the hospital or physician.

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