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Signs and Symptoms of a Blood Clot
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Signs and Symptoms of a Blood Clot

By Anirudha Goparaju, MD


If you're like most people, when you happen to have an odd ache or pain, it's only natural to wonder if you have a blood clot. But blood clots are a normal part of our lives. In fact, we need them to stop bleeding after an injury. However, if you smoke or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you’re at a higher risk of developing a blood clot when you don’t need one—and that spells trouble.


Blood Clots occur when blood does not flow as it naturally should, or there is injury to the venous system, or a situation where the body is more prone to creating clots. When a clot forms in a vein, it’s known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT). When a DVT occurs, it has potential to spread closer to the heart, and also embolize.


While a clot can form after any procedure, they are common during aparoscopic or robotic surgery. Because you are immobile for a period of time, the carbon dioxide used to distend the abdomen decreases blood flow back to the heart, and patients undergoing weight loss surgery also have higher pressure in the abdomen, decreasing the blood flow back to the heart.


DVTs occur most often in the legs and can cause symptoms such as pain, and acute swelling. If untreated, it can progress to chronic swelling and lead to ulcerations of the legs. These clots also have potential to embolize to the lungs and can cause a pulmonary embolus, which can be a life threatening event. In this situation, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, lack of ability to absorb oxygen, and difficulty with your heart pumping blood can also occur.


The best way to prevent blood clots is a three-fold approach. The first step begins prior to the operating room with a shot of heparin or low molecular weight heparin underneath the skin, and this is given twice to three times a day for a period of 2-4 weeks after the operation. During the operation and while you are on the hospital floor, you will have devices called sequential compression devices (SCDs) on your legs intermittently compressing your calf muscles every few minutes to improve blood flow. Finally, early ambulation right after surgery and continued ambulation in the hospital also helps keep blood moving. With all these interventions, the rate of blood clots after surgery is minimized.