As soon as he could manage after undergoing abdominal surgery, Brian was on his feet and walking in the hallway outside his hospital room. He was making the effort in hopes of speeding his recovery.
“I want to feel good – I want to get out of here and go home,” he says.
At the same time, the Levittown, Pa., man was lowering his risk of developing a well-known surgical complication – a blood clot, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Sometimes such clots break free and travel to the lungs and can lead to pulmonary embolism (PE) – a potentially life-threatening condition.
In addition to sitting for prolonged periods, such as on a long flight, some chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer, obesity and severe muscle injury, surgery is a risk factor for developing blood clots.
At Jefferson, our physicians, nurses and other clinical staff employ recognized best practices to reduce the risk of these blood clots in patients.
Patients like Brian and their families can help, too.
“We want patients to be more aware of the real risks of DVT and PE and empower families to participate in prevention efforts,” says Chief Medical Officer Geno Merli, MD, co-director of the Jefferson Vascular Center and a national leader in DVT prevention.
One such effort is Jefferson’s Walk a Lot, Prevent a Clot program, which enlists patients and families to take an active role in preventing DVT. The goal is for patients who are capable of walking, to walk three times a day for at least 50 feet each session.
The campaign uses signage, information sheets and inpatient videos to educate and encourage patients to walk regularly.
In addition, distance markers have been posted in the hallway to help patients, family members and their nurses calculate how far they’ve walked The information is documented in the patient’s electronic health record.
“The response to the campaign has been great,” says Debbie Gardiner, one of the clinical nurse specialists spearheading the Walk a Lot program. “Patients and their families are conversing about DVT, repeating the ‘walk a lot, prevent a clot’ phrase.”
She adds, “Even patients who share rooms are taking the initiative to walk each other around the floor.”
Naturally, not every at-risk patient is able to walk. So if walking is not possible, patients are prescribed medications to reduce the risk of clots, or compression devices are used to maintain blood flow.
Patients are also provided exercise and diet suggestions for clot prevention that they can use when they return home. Those include foot and lower extremity exercises that can be done in a chair or bed and suggested menus for clot prevention: foods low in saturated fats, high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, and foods high in fiber and soy.
At Jefferson, the safety of our patients is a top priority for our physicians and staff. The Walk a Lot, Prevent a Clot program is one of the many initiatives here to ensure we deliver the highest quality and safest care for all patients.
March is Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month, an opportune time to learn about how you can avoid developing blood clots in the hospital and at home.
To make an appointment with a Jefferson physician, call 1-800-JEFF-NOW or request an appointment online.
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