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Blood clots

What is Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)?

Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) is a term used to describe abnormal blood clots in the body.

Normally, blood flows easily through the veins. If the blood flow slows down, a blood clot can form and acts like a plug in the vein.

These blood clots include:

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep vein of the leg. DVT can cause pain and swelling of the leg. It can also damage the vein;
  • Pulmonary Embolism (PE) is a blood clot that travels to the lungs. PE can cause difficulty with oxygenation of the blood, and if severe enough or untreated, can lead to death.

Why is my loved one at risk of blood clots?

Some pre-existing conditions can increase the risk of developing Venous Thromboembolism. The risk factors include:

  • Smoking;
  • Obesity;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Cancer and cancer treatments.

Other factors can further increase the risk of clots. These include:

  • Major trauma;
  • Injuries to the leg;
  • Recent surgery;
  • Acute illness;
  • Reduced movement while in the hospital.

What can be done to reduce the risk of blood clots while in the ICU?

  • Patients are given daily injections of an anticoagulant medication that makes the blood less likely to form clots that cause Venous Thromboembolism;
  • If patients cannot take this medication, special stocking will be put on their legs. They are called Thromboembolic Deterrent (TED) stockings or compression stockings. They provide light compression to promote proper circulation of the blood.

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Location and contact

Critical Care Medicine

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, 
D-wing, 1st floor
room D1 08
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4522
Fax: 416-480-4999

For information about patients admitted to Sunnybrook's Intensive Care Units, please contact the unit through the hospital switchboard at 416-480-6100