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Blood clots – treatable if caught in time, but fatal if ignored

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Shidlovski

Ann Marie O’Neill

Patient/Founder & CEO, Thrombosis Ireland

60% of blood clots happen as a result of a hospital stay and many are preventable. Thrombosis Ireland & HSE have rolled out one million Blood Clot Alert Cards to all the Irish Public Acute Hospitals with the recommendation that they be used as part of their hospital VTE (venous thromboembolism) prevention strategy. All patients admitted should receive this card before discharge as their risk of getting a blood clot remains high for 90 days after they go home.

What is a blood clot?

A blood clot is made up of platelets and red blood cells that form a plug and a mesh of cross-linked fibrin protein, causing a blockage in a blood vessel. Blood clots do not discriminate between young, old, male or female. They can happen to anyone. They are very treatable if caught in time but can be potentially fatal if ignored or missed, so awareness can be lifesaving.

What increases your risk of getting a blood clot?

• A hospital stay – and the following 90 days once you’re home.
• Having active cancer or receiving cancer treatment.
• Being pregnant or having had a baby fewer than six weeks ago
• Becoming immobile (more than three days in bed/travel non-stop more than six hours/ in a leg cast

Risk may increase further if:

• You or a close relative had a blood clot
• You had surgery in the last 90 days
• You have thrombophilia (tendency to clot)
• You are on the oral contraceptive pill or HRT
• You have heart, lung or inflammatory disease
• You are over 60 years of age or are overweight
• You have varicose veins that become red and sore

Signs and symptoms of a blood clot:

• Swelling or pain in one leg, usually the calf, or arm
• warmth or redness in the leg or arm
• Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
• Chest pain (particularly when breathing deeply)
• Coughing or coughing up blood

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you may have a clot and need urgent treatment. Do not delay seeking medical advice.

Blood clots are preventable in many cases and very treatable if caught on time. Patients and carers need to be aware of the risks and the signs of a blood clot, in order to protect themselves and their loved ones, particularly in the 90 days after discharge from hospital.

Blood Clot Alert Card

The Blood Clot Alert Card is designed to be used as an information tool for patients admitted to our acute hospitals. It informs patients of their risk, the signs and the need to get medical attention fast. It also prompts them to request a VTE risk assessment from their doctor to assess if they need intervention to prevent blood clots while in hospital and when they go home.

It reminds them of the importance of walking and moving as much as possible to keep their blood flowing and the need to keep hydrated. Awareness about blood clots will save lives. Patients are entitled to be informed so they can be vigilant and proactive about their health.

The card itself is laminated and folds to fit in your wallet. For further information or support please contact Thrombosis Ireland on 087 3634828 or go to our website www.thrombosisireland.ie

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