Patients recovering from major surgery face risk of developing blood clots

For patients recovering from major surgeries such as hip and knee operations, the worst is far from over. A new study has shown that they also face the risk of suffering from blockages in blood vessels that are potentially fatal.

Findings of a study, released on Thursday morning at Oasia Hotel, showed that of the 1,103 patients who underwent major surgery at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital from 2011 to 2012, some 2.1 per cent of them were found to have developed the disease.

The study also showed that patients who are above 75 years old, female, have a history of such clots and ischemic heart disease - a condition that leads to heart attacks due to blockage of the blood vessels supplying oxygen to the heart - are more prone to developing the condition.

Called Venous Thrombo Embolism, the disease can come in two forms: Deep Vein Thrombosis, a blood clot that forms in the veins in areas such as the leg or pelvis, and the more dangerous Pulmonary Embolism - a blood clot that blocks vessels in the lungs.

The former could develop as patients are usually immobile for many hours after surgery, said Dr Ong Hean Yee, head and senior consultant of Cardiology at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. But when the blood clot moves up to the lungs, the condition worsens to a case of Pulmonary Embolism, which affects circulation of blood that can result in long-term damage to the lungs and other vital organs, or even death.

Previously, patients who suffered from the conditions were treated with a dual combination of anti-coagulant drugs that involved injections and oral consumption. They also have to make frequent visits to the hospital and undergo routine blood monitoring.

However, patients can now turn to a more hassle-free treatment, an orally-administered drug called Xarelto (Rivaroxaban).

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