Recovering from spine surgery can be challenging, but it’s a journey towards healing. One concern you may have is the possibility of blood clots. In this easy-to-understand guide, we’ll explain the risks, why blood clots are a concern, and how you can prevent them to ensure a safe and successful recovery.
Blood clots are a known complication following any surgery, but thankfully are uncommon with spine surgery. The risk developing a blood clot (also called deep vein thrombosis) is less than1% after spine surgery.
Understanding the risk
1. What are risk factors for developing a postoperative blood clot?
Although the overall risk is low, certain people may be at a higher risk of developing blood clots in their legs following surgery. Obesity, diabetes, advanced age, prolonged immobility, previous history of blood clots, and longer intraoperative time are risk factors that can increase your chance of developing blood clots in the recovery period.
2. Why are blood clots dangerous?
Blood clots are dangerous because of the potential to dislodge and travel through the bloodstream. This can lead to blocking blood flow to the lungs, heart, or brain, causing serious complications such as pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke. It’s important to take preventive measures to minimize this risk.
1. Mobilization and early ambulation
The most effective ways to prevent blood clots after spine surgery is early ambulation. This means getting up and moving around as soon and as often as you can. Start off slow with short distances around your house, and then increase walking distance over time as you tolerate it.
2. Compression stockings
Wearing compression stockings can help reduce the risk of blood clots by aiding blood flow in your legs. If you are going to be seated or lying down for more than an hour or two, it is a good idea to wear compression stockings during the first couple of weeks after surgery.
3. Medications and blood thinners
Dr. Wheeler may prescribe blood-thinning medications to prevent clot formation. This is usually reserved for higher-risk patients. It’s crucial to take these medications as directed and discuss any concerns with your medical team.
4. Hydration and nutrition
Proper hydration and nutrition play a pivotal role in preventing blood clots. Adequate fluids and a balanced diet can help maintain healthy blood circulation.
1. Follow your surgeon’s instructions
Adhering to your surgeon’s post-surgery instructions is paramount. This includes taking prescribed medications, attending follow-up appointments, and following activity restrictions.
2. Recognizing symptoms
Be familiar with the symptoms of blood clots, including swelling, pain, warmth, or redness in your legs. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
In conclusion, preventing blood clots after spine surgery is important. By following the recommended preventive measures and post-surgery care, you can significantly reduce the risk of blood clots and ensure a smoother recovery. Moving and walking frequently are by far the best thing you can do to minimize the chance of blood clots.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I wear compression stockings after spine surgery?
The duration varies from patient to patient, and your surgeon will provide specific guidance. Typically, they are worn for several weeks.
Can blood clots occur in other parts of the body besides the legs?
Yes, blood clots can form in other areas, but they are most common in the legs.
Can blood clots be completely eliminated as a risk after spine surgery?
While the risk can be minimized, it cannot be entirely eliminated. Adhering to preventative measures helps lower your risk.
What is the best way to minimize risk of blood clots?
Move early and often. Make sure you are keeping the blood flowing in your legs. If traveling, get up and stretch your legs frequently.
How is a blood clot diagnosed?
If a blood clot is suspected, an ultrasound study of the veins in the legs will be ordered to check for the presence of blood clots. Results are available almost instantly.