Page last updated at 08:13 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 09:13 UK

Blood clot deaths 'preventable'

Platelet cells in a blood clot
Blood clots can get lodged in the lungs

Thousands of lives a year could be saved by more effective measures to prevent hospital patients developing blood clots, say experts.

Around 32,000 UK hospital patients a year die after developing a blood clot.

But the charity Lifeblood says around 70% of these deaths could be prevented by better awareness, proper assessment and the use of simple measures.

These include giving patients anti-thrombosis socks like those now routinely issued on long-haul flights.

Hospitals should be doing a risk assessment on everybody going into hospital and we know that one-third of hospitals are not doing that routinely
Dr Sarah Jarvis
Royal College of GPs

Other preventative measures include encouraging patients to move around as much as possible, and administering anti-clotting drugs to those at highest risk.

Blood clots kill more people than traffic accidents, breast cancer and the hospital superbug MRSA put together.

And the risk for a post-operative patient is much higher than that for a long-distance air traveller.

Clots can form in the veins deep inside the leg during long periods of immobility. Pieces can then break off from the clot, and travel to the lungs, where they can get lodged, and trigger a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.


Dr Sarah Jarvis, of the Royal College of GPs, said it was "shocking" that some hospitals still do not provide anti-thrombosis socks.

She said: "The Department of Health says that everyone should have an assessment of their risk of having a blood clot when they go into hospital, and if you haven't had one you should ask for one.

"Hospitals should be doing a risk assessment on everybody going into hospital and we know that one-third of hospitals are not doing that routinely.

"They should also, according to national guidance, be giving preventative treatment to everybody having hip surgery, for instance, for four weeks afterwards."

The NHS Confederation agreed that hospitals needed to up their game when dealing with the risk of blood clots.

It said measures were needed to ensure proper risk assessment of patients, with monitoring systems established to make sure they work.

Awareness of risk should also be fully explained to patients and their carers.

Nigel Edwards, NHS Confederation director of policy, said: "If we work together we can save lives and reduce NHS costs by improving assessment of all patients and using cost-effective preventative measures."

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