Debunking Common Blood Clot Myths
From Westminster, Calif. to the farthest reaches of America’s East Coast, blood clots claim the lives of 300,000 people every year. As students quickly learn in phlebotomy courses, blood is essential to the human body. When a clot restricts the movement of blood, the health consequences for the victim can be severe. Fortunately, not all blood clot victims die. In fact, the majority of embolisms are eminently preventable.
As with everything in life, knowledge is power. Phlebotomy courses teach students in Westminster extensively about the human circulatory system, but not everyone has the opportunity to attend such classes. In the absence of professional instruction, take a look at the truth behind some of the more common blood clot myths.
Perhaps the most prevalent myth is that blood clots only happen to older patients or those in ill health. This is simply untrue. In places like Westminster, everyone is at risk of embolism, even those who live an active lifestyle and are in their physical prime.
Blood clots generally originate in the legs. They can be exacerbated by long periods of inactivity. Travellers who regularly make long journeys on cramped airplanes can be at a higher risk of blood clots than those who don’t.
Blood clots deep in the legs — known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — can be painful and inconvenient, but they don’t typically result in death. If caught early, doctors can treat them with relative ease using blood thinners. Most patients in Westminster recover fully. Problems arise when an embolism breaks apart and moves from the legs to the lungs. Although phlebotomy courses can help teach ways to prevent blood clots, a resulting pulmonary embolism can be potentially fatal.
Another common myth is that blood thinners only need to be administered to those currently experiencing a coagulum. Unfortunately, this too is false. If a recovering patient goes off blood thinners too quickly, the clots can remain or even break up further. In fact, new clots can form as a result.
“A patient I just saw this week had a history of blood clots when she was on birth control,” says Dr. Andra James, a professor at Duke University Medical School. “She had factor V Leiden (a genetic blood clotting disorder), but at eight weeks pregnant, she was not on an anticoagulant (blood thinner). This patient should have had a plan in place. She didn’t,” says James, “and she had a DVT.”
Many people believe that blood clots most often occur at home or while travelling. Students in phlebotomy courses know differently. In fact, blood clots occur more often in hospitals than anywhere else.