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BLOG: April 2007

 DVT health risk recognized in UK, not US

The British government is publishing official guide which specifies how to check every hospital patient for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) risk. It is estimated that it causes some 25,000 deaths a year in UK hospitals alone (BBC).

If the rate is similar, it amounts to well over 100,000 deaths a year here in the U.S., also in hospitals alone. Yet, there is no organized official action aimed at remedying this preventable ongoing tragedy of enormous proportions.

The condition is caused by blood clothing, most often in large veins of legs and hips. Large clots can obstruct blood flow, and smaller clots can reach any part of the body, causing serious, potentially deadly consequences. The most common complication is pulmonary embolism (PE), when such clots block blood flow between the lungs and heart. Among the other possible complications are stroke, heart attack and loss of vision.

Over half of the affected folks don't have any symptoms, and for the rest they usually limit to mild tenderness in the area around the obstructed lower body vein.

According to the American Hearth Association, up to 2 million Americans is affected by DVT, with up to 200,000 deaths from PE alone every year. Despite deep vein thrombosis being the third largest cause of death in the US, most American have never heard of it, nor are aware of the risk factors.

That is only logical considering that less than 1 in 20 has heard of it from their doctors.

Among the main DVT risk factors are age (most common after 40), reduced mobility (typical of a hospital stay), oral contraceptives, hormone therapy, obesity and cancer.

Despite the magnitude of DTV threat and urgency, the only action taken thus far in the US are the NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network) guidelines (May 2006) for reducing the risk from DVT in cancer patients.

The main preventive measure are, officially, blood-thinning medications. Healthier alternative are increased mobility, discontinuation of indicated medications (whenever possible), vitamin C and enzymes, particularly bromelain.