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Proper Care Prevents Deep Vein Clots in Elderly

These leg clots can move to the lung and prove fatal, experts say

FRIDAY, Oct. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Following clinical guidelines for preventing deep-vein blood clots in the legs lowers the risk of such clots for elderly patients, a new study finds.

The blockages, called "deep vein thrombosis" (DVT), involve the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg or the thigh. The clots can move into the lungs and cause an often fatal condition called pulmonary embolism. DVTs have come to public attention over the past few years after airline passengers on cramped, long-haul flights developed them in what some have called "economy-class syndrome."

Older adults and hospital patients are at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). That risk can be lowered through the use of medications and compression stockings.

This study, by French researchers at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, included 1,373 patients, age 65 or older, who were treated at 33 post-acute care facilities. The patients were evaluated for DVT before and after evidence-based DVT prevention guidelines.

The guidelines recommended that preventive medicines be given to certain patients, such as those who recently had major surgery or previously had DVT. Compression stockings, physical therapy, and other preventive measures were recommended for other patients.

Nurses and doctors were given educational sessions about the guidelines, along with plastic cards and posters as reminders to treat via the recommendations.

Before the guidelines were implemented, about 13 percent of patients developed DVT, compared with around 8 percent after the guidelines were in place. After the guidelines were established, patients were more likely to use compression stockings and less likely to take medications not recommend under the guidelines, the study found.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about DVT.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Oct. 23, 2006
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