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Fighting the silent killer - nurses back thrombosis awareness week

Jude Wolstenholme, anti-coagulation nurse specialist
Jude Wolstenholme, anti-coagulation nurse specialist

14 May 2009

Nurses at Epsom and St Helier hospitals teamed up to raise awareness of a condition that kills more people than cancer and road traffic accidents put together¹ this week.

Thrombosis - commonly known as a blood clot - is estimated to kill 25,000 people per year in the UK alone. But sadly, many people do not know the cause or effects of thrombosis, or how it can be prevented.

Now staff at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, as part of the National Thrombosis Week (11 to 15 May) are working to increase awareness of the condition and prevent further deaths.

Jude Wolstenholme, an anti-coagulation nurse specialist at the Trust, explained why awareness of the condition is so important: "The fact is, preventable thrombosis is a major cause of death in this country, and unfortunately, not enough people realise that. Thrombosis is often called a 'Cinderella' syndrome because it's overlooked and put on the back burner. It's time now for that attitude to change. If more people are aware of the risks, signs and symptoms we can significantly reduce the number of thrombosis related deaths.

"Reducing the number of deaths because of thrombosis is something that we are all responsible for. We must work to prevent these clots rather than treating them."

There are different types of thrombosis, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), where a blood clot forms deep inside your leg; or a pulmonary embolism, where part of the blood clot breaks away and travels to the lungs.

To keep the risk of blood clots to a minimum, especially during a stay at hospital, it is recommended that people drink plenty of water and stay hydrated, stay mobile and raise any concerns with their ward nurse or doctor. If necessary, patients will be given stockings to wear or medication to prevent clots - known as anticoagulants.

DVT can sometimes be recognised by pain, tenderness and swelling of the leg - usually the calf, but does not always present symptoms. A pulmonary embolism can be recognised by shortness or breath, chest pain that worsens when you breathe in or a sudden collapse.

Most people affected by thrombosis are older, but anyone can suffer from thrombosis, occasionally even children and babies.

The nurses ran an information stall in the Postgraduate Medical Centre (PGMC) at St Helier Hospital throughout National Thrombosis Week. The answers to ten of the most asked questions about thrombosis are also available on the Trust's website (www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/thrombosis).

For more information on thrombosis, including a special leaflet and poster for people who are due to stay in hospital on how to avoid thrombosis, please visit www.thrombosis-charity.org.uk.

¹Source: House of Commons Health Committee. 'The prevention of venous thromboembolism in hospitalised patients' 2004-2005.

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