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World Thrombosis Day 2021: What Can Be Done To Prevent Blood Clots?

This year, thrombosis became one of the most talked about health condition as research showed an increased risk of blood clots in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19.
Even though one in four people worldwide are dying from conditions caused by Thrombosis, it continues to be one of the most often overlooked medical conditions.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori | Updated : October 13, 2021 11:58 AM IST

Thrombosis, also known as blood clots, can trigger a variety of life-threatening medical conditions, including heart attack, thromboembolic stroke and venous thromboembolism (VTE). But it continues to be one of the most often overlooked medical conditions. The World Thrombosis Day (WTD) is observed every year on October 13 to increase global awareness of thrombosis, and reduce unnecessary deaths and disabilities caused by the condition. The day also marks the birthday of Rudolf Virchow, a German physician, pathologist, biologist and anthropologist who was a pioneer in the pathophysiology of thrombosis.

This year, blood clots became one of the most talked about health condition as research showed an increased risk of blood clots in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19, including COVID-19 pneumonia. Also, blood clots were identified as a rare, but serious side effect to certain COVID-19 vaccines.

In India, over the past two years, there has been a huge increase in thrombosis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stated Dr. Roopen Arya, India Spokesperson, World Thrombosis Day, Professor of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, King's College Hospital, London.

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"It is important that we are aware of the risk particularly in patients who are hospitalized in COVID-19 and make sure they get blood thinning injections to prevent the clots. It is also important to stick to evidence-based practice and avoid unnecessary treatments and clotting blood tests in mildly affected people in the community," Dr. Arya added.

Lack of awareness about thrombosis

Prof. Beverley Hunt, OBE, chair of the World Thrombosis Day Steering Committee, highlighted that despite the fact that one in four people worldwide are dying from conditions caused by blood clots, it is not widely known, and is an urgent public health issue.

The World Thrombosis Day campaign is a major step towards creating awareness about this condition, including its treatment and prevention. This year, the World Thrombosis Day campaign aims its focus on the following areas:

Hospital-associated thrombosis: Hospitalized patients are at an increased risk of blood clots due to immobility, their illness and/or surgery. Hospital-associated clots can occur in the hospital or within 90 days of discharge, and account for 60 percent of all cases of VTE, as well as being the leading cause of preventable death due to hospital admission. VTE occurs when one or more blood clots form in a deep vein, most often in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT), and can travel in the circulation and lodge in the lungs (a condition known as pulmonary embolism, PE).

COVID-19-related thrombosis: Research shows that COVID-19 increases the risk of clots by making the blood very "sticky." " we have unfortunately seen an increased rate of hospital-associated clots due to sick patients with COVID-19," pointed out Prof. Hunt.

Cancer-related thrombosis: Patients with cancer are four times more likely to develop a serious blood clot compared to the general population. This increased risk is driven by factors such as surgery, hospitalization, infection, and genetic coagulation disorders by cancer-specific factors including type, histology, stage of the malignancy, cancer treatment and certain biomarkers.

Gender-specific thrombosis: Estrogen-based oral contraceptive pills, hormone replacement therapy tablets and pregnancy are all blood clot risk factors for women. Women are five times more likely to develop a blood clot during pregnancy.

Tips for prevention of blood clots

Approximately 10 million cases of hospital associated VTE occur annually across the world. This condition is usually preventable with early detection and preventative blood thinners.

According to Prof. Hunt, the risk of clots in COVID-19, along with the other causes of hospital-associated clots, can be reduced if thromboprophylaxis is used (blood thinners).

This year, the World Thrombosis Day campaign calls upon healthcare professionals to provide mandated VTE risk assessments to all hospitalized patients, and shares some key tips that can help people prevent blood clots:

Know the signs and symptoms of a blood clot: One should look out for red flags such as unexplained leg pain and tenderness, and redness and swelling. Pulmonary embolism also causes shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain and occasionally coughing up blood.

Ask for a VTE risk assessment: All individuals, especially those who are hospitalized, should ask their healthcare professional for a VTE risk assessment, a questionnaire that gathers medical information to discern a patient's potential risk factors for developing blood clots.

Stay active and hydrated: If you plan to sit still for a long period of time, set an alarm for five minutes before every hour, and use that time to get up, walk around and stretch. Staying immobile for long periods of time can increase the risk of blood clots. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, which can cause blood to thicken, resulting in blood clots.

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