Most DVTs and pulmonary embolisms develop in people who are inactive because of an injury or surgery. If you have had a DVT or pulmonary embolism, or you have a family history of blood-clotting problems, you can help to prevent blood clots by doing the following:
Review your medical history with your doctor to see if you have any risk factors for blood clots that can be changed.
Avoid all medications that may cause blood clots (especially birth control pills and other medications that contain estrogen).
Drink a lot of water and walk around frequently when on long plane flights or car trips.
Avoid prolonged periods of bed rest.
Discuss your history of DVT and pulmonary embolism with your physician before considering any surgical procedures.
The main treatment for a DVT or pulmonary embolism is a medication called heparin, which helps break up blood clots and prevent new ones from forming. There are two main types of heparin: an older type that is best administered by a constant infusion given intravenously (into a vein) and a newer type called low-molecular-weight heparin that is injected under the skin once or twice per day.
If you have a DVT without a pulmonary embolism, you may be able to be treated at home with injections of a low-molecular-weight heparin. If you and your doctor determine that you need to start therapy in the hospital, the type of heparin used is determined by many factors, such as body weight, kidney function and other circumstances. If you have a pulmonary embolism, you will probably be hospitalized and treated with either type of heparin, as indicated for your personal situation.
You also will start taking warfarin (Coumadin), is a blood-thinning medication that comes in pill form. . Warfarin takes a few days to start working. Once a blood test shows that it's effective, you will stop taking heparin. You will continue taking warfarin for several months or longer.
During the first few weeks that you take warfarin, you will continue to need frequent blood tests to make sure you are taking the right amount. Once your blood test results consistently show that you are taking the right amount of medication, blood can be drawn once a week and eventually once every two to four weeks.