BLOOD CLOTS AN OVERLOOKED CAUSE OF DEATH

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BLOOD CLOTS AN OVERLOOKED CAUSE OF DEATH

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    MARCIA KOSTERKA
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    More Americans die each year from blood clots and their complications than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and HIV combined.

    That’s according to the latest findings from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta).

    “It’s staggering,” said Dr. Michael Nellestein of Blessing Physician Services’ Vein Clinic.

    Nellestein said that in recent years, genetic tendencies have also come into play, and if an individual has a family history of blood clots, a medical examination is likely needed.

    “Ninety percent of clots come from (veins in) the legs,” he said. “Veins return blood from the legs back to the heart. The main canal in this process is the deep vein.”

    Most life-threatening conditions occur in the “deep” system and are known as DVT-PE.

    Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in the deep veins. These blood clots can break loose, travel upward with the flow of blood, and lodge and obstruct blood flow in the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism.

    “This can be fatal,” Nellestein said. “DVT-associated PE causes an estimated 300,000 deaths in the United States each year.”

    Signs of DVT may include:

    º Swelling of the leg at the site of the clot.

    º Leg pain, which occurs in 50 percent of patients.

    º Tenderness, which occurs in 75 percent of patients.

    º Warmth or reddish-color of the skin at the site of the clot.

    Clinical symptoms of PE include shortness of breath or breathing problems, chest pain and coughing.

    There are also superficial veins — the saphenous veins — that are directly under the skin and transport blood to the deep system, which moves the blood upward.

    Varicose veins occur in the superficial system and may also develop clots, Nellestein said that while clots in the varicose veins should always be addressed, they typically do not cause DVT-PE.

    “Anyone who thinks they have a DVT/blood clot should seek medical attention immediately,” he said.

    Nellestein said diagnosis is done with imaging studies, including ultrasound and CT scans.

    “Prevention is far and away the preferred approach by understanding the risk factors, (but) if a DVT occurs, treatment may involve anticoagulant medications, ‘clot busting’ agents, and in rare cases surgery,” he said.

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