By Heather Michon |
When we have a cut or other trauma, our platelets clump together to slow/stop the bleeding. But sometimes our platelets clump together when an injury didn’t occur, forming a blood clot. Blood clots can dissolve on their own, but some can travel to our heart, lungs or brain, dangerously stopping the flow of blood and oxygen. IV therapy can be affected when blood circulation slows from the formation of a clot in the vein.
Clotting is one of the blood’s basic functions. When we experience a cut or other trauma, the sticky platelets in our blood clump together to help stop excessive bleeding.
But sometimes, this clumping takes place without any cut or injury, forming a “thrombus,” or blood clot, somewhere in our body. Most clots dissolve harmlessly, but in other cases, a clot or a piece of a clot can travel to the heart, lungs, or brain, forming a plug that stops the flow of blood and oxygen to the organ.
Risk factors for excessive blood clots
According to the American Heart Association, there are many risk factors for the development of blood clots, including:
- History of smoking
- Diabetes and heart disease
- Pregnancy, hormonal birth control, and hormone replacement therapy
- Prolonged periods of sitting or laying down
- Family history of blood clots or other genetic factors.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that up to 900,000 Americans suffer from a serious form of clotting known as venous thromboembolism, or VTE. each year. Of that number, between 60,000 and 100,000 patients die from the condition.
IVs and Blood Clots
Intravenous therapies carry a risk of thrombophlebitis (from thrombo, meaning a blood clot and phlebitis, meaning inflammation). This is a condition where blood circulation is slowed by the formation of a clot in the vein,
Overall, the incidence of thrombophlebitis from intravenous treatment is believed to be as high as 35%. A 2015 study in in the journal Thrombosis Research found that 268 out of 909 patients put on a PICC (an intravenous line running from the arm to the major vein leading to the heart) developed a clot associated with the PICC.
Between 70-80% of these types of clots are superficial and clear up on their own as soon as the catheter is removed, while the remaining 20-30% require more intensive treatment.
Signs of thrombophlebitis include redness around the insertion site, pain and tenderness, or a visibly swollen vein. If have any of these symptoms during your treatment, let your nursing team know as soon as possible.
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