Hospital-related DVT

Your risk of blood clots is higher when you are admitted to hospital. This is mainly because you must remain in bed for a time, and not moving increases your risk of blood clots.

Muscle movements help to push the blood by squeezing the veins, helping blood to flow freely without clotting. If you are not walking around for some time, blood flow can become slow and allow a clot to form. This is also why on a long air flight it is suggested you do some leg and foot exercises. 

Also, to protect itself from blood loss, the body stimulates the blood to clot more easily, after surgery or an injury. But this also increases the risk of unwanted clotting.

Who is most at risk?

The risk of DVT is highest in people who have:

  • major joint surgery (e.g. hip or knee replacement)
  • major surgery to the abdomen (tummy), hips, chest or legs
  • major surgery for cancer
  • severe physical injury or trauma
  • serious sudden illness such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke, spinal cord injury, severe infection, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

If you're thought to be at risk of developing DVT, your healthcare team can take a number of measures to prevent a blood clot forming.

Measures to prevent a clot  Description

Before going to hospital

If you are going to hospital to have an operation, your doctor will assess your risk of DVT.

  • If you are taking medicines that may increase your risk of getting a clot, you will be advised to stop taking your medication a few weeks before your operation. Examples include:
    • combined oral contraceptive pill ('the pill')
    • hormone replacement therapy (HRT)  
  • If you're taking medication to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you may be advised to stop taking it one week before your operation.

While you are in hospital

Depending on your risk factors and individual circumstances, your healthcare team will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment may include:

  • wearing compression stockings
  • using a compression pump on your lower legs
  • taking tablets or injections (anticoagulant medication) to prevent a blood clot
  • gently exercising your feet and legs in bed
  • getting out of bed and walking as soon as possible.

If you experience any of the following while you are in hospital, call a nurse immediately:

  • pain or swelling in your legs
  • pain in your lungs or chest
  • difficulty breathing.

When you leave hospital

You may need to continue to take anticoagulant medicine and wear compression stockings when you leave hospital. Before you leave, your healthcare team should advise you about how to use your treatment, how long to continue using it for, and who to contact if you experience any of the symptoms described above.

Learn more

Preventing deep vein thrombosis NHS Choices
Blood clots – reducing your risk Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care