Another television icon is having surgery! A blood clot is being removed from Regis Philbin's leg next week. He has already had hip replacement surgery in 2009 and undergone a triple bypass surgery in 2007.
Blood clots form when blood hardens in a blood vessel or in the heart and coagulates. If it dislodges and travels through the blood system then it is called an embolus. The blockage can cause pain, swelling or warmth in the area or may not cause any symptoms at all! About two million Americans a year are hospitalized due to deep vein thrombosis.
Factors that increase the risk of clot formation include damage or trauma to the inside of the vessel, changes in blood flow or blockage such as from plaques, and having an increased clotting response. Additionally, sitting for long periods of time without standing up and moving about (such as on a plane or during long car rides), prolonged bed rest, recent major surgery, obesity, recent childbirth, high altitudes, being on the birth control pill or estrogen replacement, and advancing age are also risk factors.
Although it may resolve on its own, if it does dislodge and travel into the lungs it is called a pulmonary embolism and can be life threatening. You may experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, or feel dizzy and possibly faint and require emergency intervention.
Blood clots are diagnosed with Doppler ultrasound by examining your larger veins. This is a painless, outpatient procedure typically done at an imaging center or hospital. Venography uses liquid dye injected into your veins to identify the clot. This procedure is rarely done as it can be painful.
Treatment depends where it is in the body and how big the clot is. If it’s big enough it will require surgery (like Regis), however smaller clots may require blood thinning medication. To prevent yourself from getting one, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight! Get up and walk around (if allowed) when on long plane flights or stop the car during long rides to stretch. Be wary of the birth control pill or estrogen replacement especially if you are a smoker or have cardiovascular disease.