Preventing Blood Clots After Surgery

By Alex Bigale, PTA

Preventing Blood Clots After Surgery

Preventing blood clots after surgery is a vital part of recovery.  Blood Clots or coagulation are a normal part of the body’s healing process when someone has a cut or scrape. Clots form from the solid materials in blood, platelets, and red blood cells, which clump together to form a barrier.  This process helps to stop bleeding until the wound is healed, and then the clot dissolves or falls off like a scab.  Blood clots can become problematic when they form inside the blood vessels because they can travel to the heart, lungs, or brain and can cause serious complications, including death.  After surgery, it is possible for a blood clot to form in the deeper veins of the legs which is then called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

How Do You Prevent Blood Clots After Surgery?

Recovery in the hospital or at home requires taking precautions to try to prevent blood clots

Preventing blood clots after surgery

In the Hospital

The most important precaution you can take to prevent a blood clot prior to surgery is to speak with your doctor and discuss your medical history with him/her to determine if you are at a higher risk of developing blood clots or if some of the treatments are contraindicated based off your current condition/medications. After surgery, but while you are still in the hospital there are several options your doctor may prescribe to help reduce the risk of blood clot formation.

  • Anticoagulants- Also known as blood thinners can be given through an IV to prevent excessive clotting.
  • Compression Stockings- These are stockings that increased the pressure on your legs and help promote blood circulation to the heart and prevent the pooling of blood.
  • Sequential or Intermittent Compression devices- These are sleeves that go over your lower leg and are inflated and deflated in specific patterns to help pump the blood from your legs back towards your heart.
  • Ambulation- During your stay in the hospital, you may be encouraged by your nurses or escorted by physical therapy to walk, which increases blood flow and helps prevent blood clots.

At Home

Many of the precautions taken in the hospital will also be applied at home but in a different form.

  • Blood thinner medications such as warfarin or heparin may be prescribed.
  • Depending on the surgery, your surgeon may want you to continue wearing compression stockings for several weeks.
  • Physical Therapy- This can be performed at home or an outpatient facility depending on your surgical procedure and/or physical status.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots?

The symptoms of a blood clot are typically consistent but can vary depending on the location of the clot.

Clot Location Symptoms
Heart Chest heaviness or pain, arm numbness, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, light-headedness
Brain Weakness of the face, arms, or legs, difficulty speaking or garbled speech, vision problems, sudden and severe headache, dizziness
Arm/Leg Sudden or gradual pain in the limb, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the limb
Lung Sharp chest pain, racing heart or rapid breathing, shortness of breath, sweating, fever, coughing up blood
Abdomen Severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea


If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you should immediately contact your doctor to determine if you need to set up treatments or go to the emergency department as this could be life-threatening.


How Is JOI Keeping Patients Safe During COVID-19?

JOI is taking precautions to protect patients and staff from COVID-19.

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To schedule an appointment for physical therapy, please call JOI Rehab at 904-858-7045.

Related Links: Blood clots joint replacement and Skin Infections in Sports. 

The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute is taking extra precautions to keep patients and staff safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Some of these measures include universal masking requirements and extra cleaning procedures.  To learn more, go to JOI4U.

To schedule an appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Specialist, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

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