Skip to Content

Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein of the body. The deep veins in the legs, thighs, and hips are the most common sites for DVT. DVT can also occur in your arms. The clot prevents the normal flow of blood in the vein. The blood backs up and causes pain and swelling. The DVT can break into smaller pieces and travel to your lungs and cause a blockage called a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism can become life-threatening.

Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Risk factors for DVT:

A DVT can happen to anybody, but certain things can increase your risk. You may be at higher risk if you have had DVT in the past. You may also be at risk if you have a family member who has had blood clots. The following conditions also increase your risk:

  • Limited activity caused by bed rest, a leg cast, or sitting for long periods
  • Injury to a deep vein, or surgery
  • A blood disorder that makes your blood clot faster than normal, such as factor V Leiden mutation
  • Age older than 60 years
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy or some types of birth control medicine
  • Pregnancy, and for 6 weeks after childbirth
  • Cancer or heart failure
  • A catheter placed in a large vein
  • Smoking
  • Obesity or varicose veins

Prevent DVT:

  • Guidelines for everyone:
    • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
    • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can damage blood vessels and increase your risk for a DVT. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
    • Move regularly if you sit for long periods of time. If you travel by car or work at a desk, move and stretch in your seat several times each hour. In an airplane, get up and walk every hour. Exercise your legs by tightening and releasing your leg muscles while sitting. You can also exercise your legs while sitting by raising and lowering your heels. Keep your toes on the floor while you do this. You can also raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor.
      DVT Prevention Heel Raise
      DVT Prevention Toe Raise
    • Exercise regularly to help increase your blood flow. Walking is a good low-impact exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Guidelines for people at high risk for DVT:
    • Take blood thinner medicines as directed. Your healthcare provider may recommend blood thinners and other medicines to help prevent blood clots.
    • Wear pressure stockings as directed. The stockings are tight and put pressure on your legs. This improves blood flow and helps prevent clots. Wear the stockings during the day. Do not wear them when you sleep.

    • Elevate your legs above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your legs on pillows or blankets to keep them elevated comfortably.
    • Get up and move as directed after surgery or an injury, or during an illness. Early and regular movement can help decrease your risk for DVT by helping to increase your blood flow. Ask your healthcare provider what type of activity you need and how often you should do it.
    • Change body positions often if you are bedridden. Ask for help to change your position every 1 to 2 hours.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.