What is Deep Vein Thrombosis – Blog 1
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can lead to pulmonary embolism, heart failure, death and brain injury.
Over a short series of three blogs I will be investigating;
- What DVT is;
- what the risk factors are;
- the signs and symptoms to look out for;
- the impact it can have if not treated; and
- the treatment to expect.
In this blog, the first of the series, I will be discussing why blood is designed to clot in the first place and why the body sometimes gets it wrong and a DVT forms. Next time, I will write about the things that make suffering a DVT more likely and how to know if you have one. Finally I will discuss how and why a DVT can be really serious and what kind of treatment to expect if you have one.
Blood is AMAZING
Blood has the incredible job of flowing around our body completely freely transporting oxygen to every cell from our toes to our eye lids, keeping us alive and functioning.
But, if we suffer a cut, graze or abrasion this wonder-liquid has to stop flowing so we don’t bleed to death.
Imagine you are walking to the shops, listening to your headphones, in a daydream…. the sun is shining… it is lunchtime… hmmmm… what shall I have for lunch… when you trip on a paving slab and land on the pavement, grazing the hand you stuck out to support yourself as you fell.
Sat on the pavement, you look at your hand and see blood running down your palm… Only a graze you think… you’ll be fine… but inside your body an alarm bell has been sounded by the breaking of the blood vessels in your palm and platelets (special blood cells – shaped like little plates when looked at through a microscope) start rushing to the site of the injury. Their time has come!
As each platelet reaches ground zero, it sends signals to its nearby platelet friends telling them to rush on over. They get activated at the site of the cut and grow tentacles to stick to each other and form a barrier. As the barrier forms, proteins in your blood pick up on what is happening and long “fibrin” strands are formed which mix in with the platelets to complete the barrier. This combination stops the bleeding.
As you are picking yourself up from the floor the bleeding has already eased off and luckily, you don’t have to worry about bleeding to death… just deal with the embarrassment of falling over.
Over the next few days as your palm heals the fibrin dissolves and the platelets (job complete!) return to your blood stream, ready and waiting for another alarm to sound.
These amazing cells are formed in our bone marrow for this very reason and kept at the right concentration level to make sure our blood clots when it needs to… and only when it needs to.
As with any precision machine running complex processes, malfunctions can occur.
These can be because you have too many or too few platelets or it can be because your platelets make a mistake.
Deep Vein Thrombosis happens because of one of these very malfunctions. When blood running through someone’s veins slows down it is more likely to clot as all the platelets start getting stuck together and the chain reaction that is designed to stop you bleeding to death is triggered by mistake.
Likewise, your platelets can come across a damaged blood vessel that they mistake for a cut or graze and the alarm will sound for a clot to form when it is not actually needed.
In my next blog I will write about the various risk factors that make these situations more likely to arise and the signs and symptoms to look out for.
Tom Lax is a senior solicitor in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you or a loved one are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact Tom free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.