Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Hospitals failing to prevent blood clots

Missed DVTs on the increase

As reported by the BBC last week, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19888820, hospital-acquired blood clots are on the increase and are being missed by treating doctors.

DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is a blood clot in the veins of the leg which, if left untreated, can cause impaired circulation to the foot and lower leg and, in serious cases, result in amputation.

An untreated DVT can also cause clots to travel into the cardio-pulmonary (heart and lung) system and develop into a pulmonary embolism (lung clot) or a stroke which can be fatal.

The most common occurrences of DVT relate to foot or lower limb injuries, particularly fractures. When a plaster cast is applied, it can impair blood flow to the lower veins, causing blood to accumulate and clot and the vein to become blocked. In other cases, DVTs can occur in patients who are immobilised for any length of time. Lying in bed for long periods impairs the blood flow to the veins in the legs. The same can be said for long-haul flights.

DVT symptoms include pain, swelling and tenderness in one leg (usually the calf); a heavy ache in the affected area; warmness in the area of the clot, and redness and tightness of the skin.

It is important for hospital doctors and nurses to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of a patient developing a blood clot in the leg. As the BBC suggest in their article, DVTs and their complications are costly to the health service and it is far more cost effective to prevent them in the first place.

Prevention includes measures such as compression stockings or prophylactic anti-coagulation medications (such as Clexane or Heparin) to thin the blood.

Failure to take reasonable steps to prevent a DVT may give rise to a claim in negligence. If you would like further information regarding a potential claim relating to a DVT, please contact the medical negligence team.