A specialist nurse today blamed publicity over long-haul flights and deep vein thrombosis for poor public awareness about the risks of developing blood clots in hospital.
Tracy Graham, based at Southampton General Hospital, is concerned at the number of patients with little or no knowledge of the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) during a hospital stay – or how they can help protect themselves.
“Public understanding of thrombosis and the risk it poses remains widely unknown – and the long-held belief that long-haul flights are the leading cause of blood clots continues to hamper our efforts to educate the public,” said Ms Graham, who spoke out as part of National Thrombosis Week.
A blood clot within a blood vessel, known as thrombosis, occurs when a clot develops in a deep vein, usually in the leg, and stops or interrupts the flow of blood. In some cases, parts of a clot will break off and become lodged in the lungs.
A patient’s risk of developing thrombosis when in hospital increases following surgery and is heightened by factors such as immobility, age, obesity, chronic illness, infection and inflammation.
Patients are urged to keep mobile and hydrated, and to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Ms Graham also said it was important they felt able to question staff about whether or not they had received a full risk assessment for VTE.
She explained: “We urge patients to take five or ten minutes just to take a brief look at guidance to understand if they are at risk, to ensure they give themselves the best possible chance of avoiding this condition.
“Although there are many things patients can do to help themselves, health professionals play a major role in combating this problem and there are strict guidelines for hospitals to follow to limit the risk of thrombosis in patients, so I do urge people to ask questions about their assessments.”
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Southampton General and the Princess Anne hospitals and hospice Countess Mountbatten House, is one of only two trusts in the region to consistently risk assess more than 90% of adult patients and is one of 14 sites in the UK awarded ‘exemplar’ status by the Department of Health for its thrombosis policy.
“In Southampton, all our clinicians are signed up to keeping patients safe through risk assessments and appropriate action, but clinical opinion on the significance of VTE varies and we need to continue to work on educating patients and staff,” added Ms Graham, who is also clinical practice lead for the national nursing and midwifery network.