Hospital-related DVT

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

Usually, muscle movements help to push the blood around your body by squeezing the veins. This helps blood to flow freely without clotting. If you are not mobile for some time, blood flow can become slow and allow a clot to form. Read more about blood clots.

You may be in hospital after surgery or an injury, and as your body tries to protect itself from blood loss, it causes your blood to clot more easily. But this also increases the risk of unwanted clotting like DVT.

Who is most at risk?

The risk of DVT is highest in people who have had:

  • major joint surgery (eg, 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 or 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.

Preventing 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 may be advised to stop taking your medicine a few weeks before your operation. Examples include:
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines you need to stop. Do not stop taking your medicines without speaking to your doctor.

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, UK
Blood clots – reducing your risk Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
Preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in hospital Waitemata DHB, NZ

Reviewed by

Jeremy Steinberg is a GP with special interests in musculoskeletal medicine, evidence-based medicine and use of ultrasound. He's been reviewing topics for Health Navigator since 2017 and in his spare time loves programming. You can see some of the tools he's developed on his website.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Jeremy Steinberg, FRNZCGP, Auckland Last reviewed: 08 Mar 2022