Surgery and the Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Orthopedic surgery can make a huge difference to a patient's life. But as with any surgery it comes with some risks. A major risk involved with orthopedic surgery is deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot is formed within a deep vein. Deep vein thrombosis is often associated with hip and leg surgeries, and common places for getting deep vein thrombosis are the thigh or calf. This condition can however develop after any major orthopedic surgery. Another risk is a pulmonary embolism. This occurs when a blood clot dislodges and travels through the veins. It can actually block the flow of blood to the heart and lungs if it reaches them. This condition is a serious one that can be fatal.

These are both good examples of why it is important to increase blood flow after orthopedic surgery. Evidence points to good blood flow improving the outcome of patients in both the conditions mentioned, as well as general wound healing where increased blood flow improves the oxygen and nutrient supply that your body needs to recover.

Your medical team will develop a programme to minimise these risks that is suitable for you. This may include the use of anti-coagulation medication, intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) or support wear. It could also involve passive or active therapy, such as the elevation of limbs or specific exercises. While these all play a vital role in orthopedic surgery recovery, some of these solutions also come with their own risks and contraindications. Anticoagulation medication may increase risk of bleeding complications. IPC and support wear may also be contraindicated. So there are times when the options available to doctors are limited.

One new piece of equipment developed is the geko device. It looks a little like a wrist watch, but is worn around the knee. This device provides stimulation to the common peroneal nerve which activates the foot and calf muscle pumps, leading to increased venous, arterial and microcirculatory blood flow by up to sixty percent. It has been discovered that the geko device can aid in both pre orthopaedic surgery and post orthopaedic surgery reduction of oedemas. The geko is recommended by NICE (medical technologies guidance) for orthopedic patients who have a high risk of thrombosis, as well as those who have medication contraindications, and those where mechanical means of thrombosis prevention are not possible.

References

1) http://www.opnews.com/2015/11/increasing-blood-flow/11802