This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
About three in 10 people who have had a DVT or pulmonary embolism will have another one within 10 years of the first. This is most likely during the first two years afterwards, and your risk of developing DVT decreases over time. You’re also more at risk if your first DVT didn’t happen after surgery or an accident. You can reduce your risk of developing DVT again by continuing to take any medicines that your doctor prescribes for you and making any lifestyle changes that he or she advises.
Having a DVT increases your chance of having one again. You're more likely to develop a DVT again if the first one occurred without an obvious cause or you got it because of an underlying medical condition that hasn't gone away since then. You're less likely to have one again if you developed a DVT because of a one-off event, such as an operation.
If you develop DVT, your doctor will probably first treat you with injections of an anticlotting medicine called low molecular weight heparin followed by warfarin that you take by mouth. How long you need to take this medicine for will depend on what caused your DVT and how likely you are to develop it again. You may only need to take it for a few months, but it’s possible that you will need to continue taking this medicine for life. You may be advised to wear compression stockings for at least two years.
Because you have already had DVT, you will be more likely to develop it after long-distance travel than someone who has never had DVT. Therefore, it’s important to get medical advice before making any travel plans that involve long journeys.
There are a number of things that can help to prevent DVT and your surgeon or nurse will be able to give you information about these. You can also reduce your risk of developing DVT by following your surgeon or nurse’s advice about treatment after surgery. This may include getting up and about as soon as possible after your operation and taking the medicines that have been prescribed for you.
Your risk of developing DVT after an operation depends on a number of things, including the type of surgery you’re having and whether you have any other risk factors. In addition, being inactive increases your risk of DVT. After an operation, it’s possible that you will need to spend a lot of time in bed and won’t be able to move around a great deal.
Your surgeon or nurse will assess you when you go into hospital for your operation and will develop a plan to help prevent DVT. This will include information about your risk of developing DVT, what you can do to reduce this and what you need to do once you go home. This is likely to include stopping smoking, wearing compression stockings, taking anticlotting medicines and doing foot and leg exercises when you're in bed or inactive.
Other ways to reduce your risk may include the following.
If you don't get this information, it’s important that you ask for it.
Warfarin is an anticlotting medicine that you may need to take for several months after DVT. Like all medicines, warfarin can have side-effects but you can reduce your risk of these by taking it every day as your doctor prescribes. You will also need to have regular blood tests.
Warfarin is the anticlotting medicine that you’re most likely to be prescribed after DVT. You take it as one or more tablets once a day and it's important that you take it at the same time every day. Like all medicines, warfarin can have side-effects, but you can reduce your risk of these by following the advice below.
Produced by Polly Kerr, Bupa Health Information Team, April 2013.
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