Will you be travelling this holiday season? If it's long distance, you may be at a higher risk for developing deep vein thrombosis, which in turn can cause a pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening condition. And while the chances of experiencing either -let alone both, of these medical conditions is rare, it's also important to understand what they are so that you can seek necessary medical intervention should they occur.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Developing a blood clot in your legs, known as Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT, can occur any time whether you're travelling or not, but you're at an increased risk to develop one during long-distance travel because sitting down for long periods of time can slow the circulation of blood through your body, naturally giving your body longer time to develop a dangerous clot. You can develop Deep Vein Thrombosis while travelling short distances by car, train or bus but international travel and air travel puts you at a higher risk for DVT because of the length of time you sit and the confined space of an airplane makes it difficult to stand up, move and walk. You're also at a higher risk for developing Deep Vein Thrombosis if you've had a previous blood clot, have a clotting disorder, have a family history of blood clots, have recently had surgery, have been injured recently, are pregnant (or have been pregnant recently), have cancer (or are being treated with chemotherapy for any reason), or have a cardiovascular or heart condition of any kind.
Whether or not you're at risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis, you should do your best to prevent it, especially while travelling, by walking and stretching at least every two hours. If you intend on travelling and have increased risk of DVT, you should also speak to your doctor or cardiovascular specialist to discuss the use of compression stockings or preventative medications to take during your trip. And if during or after your travels you develop sudden swelling in one leg, pain or cramping in your calf, or your leg becomes red or feels hot to the touch, always seek medical help to determine if you have developed a dangerous blood clot.
Should you develop Deep Vein Thrombosis, it has the potential to lead to a Pulmonary Embolism (PE), which is when the blood clot that formed in your leg travels upward to your lungs and blocks blood flow to them. Pulmonary Embolisms are life threatening, so if you develop pain while deep breathing, have sudden or unexplained shortness or breath or rapid breathing, or are coughing up blood, especially after travelling or in combination with any symptom of Deep Vein Thrombosis, seek medical attention immediately. Sometimes, Pulmonary Embolisms can also occur without DVT, so don't hesitate to speak to your doctor or a cardiovascular specialist if you're concerned about PE for any reason.
Depending on your symptoms and their severity, a blood clot doctor can diagnose PE using a chest x-ray, CT scan, blood tests, and/or ultrasound of your heart or leg veins. All these imaging exams are straight-forward and minimally-invasive so there's no cut, no scar and no pain.
Should a blood clot be discovered, treatment for Pulmonary Embolism can take the form of medications or minimally-invasive surgical interventions. If a small clot is found or suspected, your doctor may suggest blood thinning medications (anticoagulants), which allow your body to break down the clot naturally without fear of it getting larger or new blood clots forming. Your cardiovascular specialist can also prescribe a clot dissolver (thrombolytic medication), but this is usually only done in severe, life-threatening PE situations because use of thrombolytics causes sudden and severe bleeding which comes with its own risks. Larger clots are more likely to treated surgically, allowing the clot to be removed entirely in one procedure instead of waiting for your body to dissolve it naturally. This is called pulmonary thrombectomy and involves threading a very small catheter through your artery to remove the clot quickly. Alternatively (or in combination with a pulmonary thrombectomy), a Vena Cava Filter can be placed inside the vein that connects the leg and the lungs and heart, preventing any large -and potentially fatal, clots from travelling to your chest while allowing liquid blood to continue to flow through. Both of these procedures can be performed by the pulmonary embolism doctors at CardioCare medical centre in Marbella.
Like all cardiovascular interventions at CardioCare cardiovascular clinic, both pulmonary thrombectomy and interior vena cava filter placement are minimally-invasive procedures that require no open surgery. No anaesthesia is required, there is no pain before, during or after the procedure, and recovery after is fast with no scar and no side effects. Most private medical insurance providers cover both of these pulmonary embolism specialist procedures too, so you needn't worry about costs involved to get these life-saving cardiovascular treatments.
Healthy Heart Screening
If you're worried about your risk for cardiovascular conditions including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms before your travels to or from the Costa del Sol this holiday season, CardioCare heart clinic in Marbella also offers cardiovascular check-ups and preventia packages for those with or without pre-existing cardiovascular conditions or risk factors so you can rest assured your heart and your entire cardiovascular health are always in the best of hands.
Learn more about our preventica packages on our website or book an appointment online to speak with CardioCare's cardiovascular doctors and blood clot specialists about your specific cardiovascular questions or concerns today.