Deep Vein Thrombosis – Were you put at risk?


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition which can have potentially fatal consequences. Medical personnel are fully aware of this condition and know how to treat it, prevent it and diagnose it. However in some cases medical negligence can occur when a DVT condition is mismanaged. If this has happened to you or a family member they could be entitled to claim compensation.

Medical mismanagement

What is a DVT?

It is a blood clot that usually develops in one of the deep veins in the leg or pelvis, usually on one side, although it can start in any other part of the body. They form when the blood thickens and clumps together.

Why is it dangerous?

It is dangerous because a clot within a deep vein could break off and move through the bloodstream which could then block the blood flow in an artery in the lungs. This is known as a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). If an artery in the lungs is blocked this will cause dangerously low levels of oxygen in the blood and tissues, which in turn will put enormous strain on the heart and death follows very quickly.

Signs of a DVT

Although a DVT can be asymptomatic, a number of signs and symptoms are associated with DVT:

  • Calf pain and/or tenderness;
  • Swelling with pitting oedema;
  • Swelling below the knee in distal DVT and up to the groin in proximal DVT;
  • Increased skin temperature;
  • Superficial venous dilation;
  • Cyanosis can occur with severe obstruction.

Not everyone with this condition will experience symptoms, although when present they may include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the leg that may also be present when standing or walking.
  • Feeling of increased warmth in the area of the leg or arm that is swollen or that hurts
  • Redness or discolouration of the skin
  • Enlargement of the superficial veins in the affected limb.

More serious symptoms which may appear suddenly are coughing up blood, increased heart rate, breathlessness, chest pain or palpitations which are all signs of a PE. This is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment.

Who is most at risk of a DVT?

Hip and pelvic surgery has the highest incident of DVT. All hospital in-patients should be assessed in relation to the potential risk factors of DVT. Many are aware of the high risk in surgical and orthopaedic patients, but medical patients (for example patients with myocardial infarction, stroke or heart failure) are also at high risk and should receive thromboprophylaxis as appropriate. The general risk factors for DVT are:

  • Immobility
  • Trauma
  • Surgery
  • Infection
  • Acute medical illness
  • The post partum period
  • Advanced stage
  • Obesity
  • Thrombophilia
  • History of venous thromboembolism
  • Varicose veins
  • Dehydration
  • Hormone therapy
  • Cancer therapies
  • Oral contraceptives and HRT
  • Smoking

How to prevent a DVT

This is a process known as DVT prophylaxis which aims to target the predisposing factors.

  • By medical staff encouraging mobilisation and helping patients with leg exercises
  • Breathing exercises will also help venous return
  • Patients should be made aware of the signs and symptoms which suggest DVT and inform nurses if they are concerned
  • Sometimes anti-embolism stockings are worn post-operatively depending on local policies and the surgeons’ instruction. The nurses’ role is to assess the contra-indications to wearing anti-embolism stockings (such as TED stockings) and clinical assessment and clinical history and also to measure and fit the correct stockings.
  • An anti-coagulant such as heparin can be administered in a prophylactic dose usually by subcutaneous injection in at risk patients.

Do you have a claim?

At Simpson Millar we recognise the devastating, and in some cases fatal, effect that the failure to diagnose a DVT/PE, or a delay in specialist treatment, can have. We understand and recognise the importance of compensation as it can greatly improve quality of life for you and your family and provide the care and security that is needed.

If you would like to talk to a member of our specialist team for an assessment of your potential claim then please contact us for a confidential and free discussion today.

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