Get to know the signs of DVT

A SORE leg after a long trip doesn’t sound like much to worry about, but that is not what my GP thought.

A few years ago, circumstances dictated I was a passenger in a car all the way from the West Coast to Dunedin with minimal stops.  The next day one leg was so sore I could hardly walk.  “Possible DVT,” my GP announced, and had to explain the implications.  Within hours I was at Dunedin Hospital, flat on my back while a technician searched for DVT (deep vein thrombosis) using an ultrasound machine.

Fortunately there was no DVT.  But I now know the signs of DVT need to be taken seriously, as undetected and untreated, it can be fatal.  Compression stockings, also known as travel stockings can help reduce the risk. 

Invercargill travel doctor Dr Robert Bester recommended regular travellers wore stockings for all flights over four hours and for all long road trips.  For those with a higher risk of developing DVT, there was merit in wearing compression stockings at work as well, he said.

Dr Bester recommended below the knee stockings, to give the knee room to bend.  Compression stockings were readily available, he said, but for regular travellers and those more at higher risk, a better option was to be individually fitted for graduated compression stockings measured to suit ankle and calf sizes.  That could be done by a pharmacist or a GP’s nurse.  There was also the option of pre and post flight injections for people particularly at risk, he said.  “They would have an injection of blood thinners.  We can teach people how to inject themselves.”  However, he said not many people required injections, estimating he prescribed them for about a dozen people each year.

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein, most commonly in the lower legs.
  • Can be caused by sitting for long periods on an aeroplane, in a vehicle, or at a desk
  • People with other health problems, who have recently had surgery or a leg in plaster, or who are dehydrated are at greater risk of developing a DVT
  • If a DVT detaches and travels into the lungs and heart it can cause chest pains, severe illness and even death
  • DVTs are difficult to detect but signs may include pain, swelling, redness and leg warmness

Taken from the Southland Express, 25 May 2017