Facts About Venous Thromboembolism

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) refers to a disease process that includes two serious conditions: deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the large veins, usually in the legs, and partially or completely blocks circulation. DVT can lead to complications, including pulmonary embolism (PE). PE is the leading cause of preventable death following surgery. PE can occur when a fragment of the blood clot breaks loose from the wall of the vein and lodges in the lungs, blocking a pulmonary artery or one of its branches. If the clot completely blocks a vessel, it can lead to death.

DVT occurs in approximately two million Americans each year. Of those who develop PE, up to 200,000 will die annually. Only about one-third of patients with DVT experience the classic signs and symptoms. Many patients with a DVT or PE have no symptoms .

DVT and PE may be debilitating or fatal, making it important to be aware of the risks and symptoms. Patients who are considering plastic surgery should consult with their healthcare provider about the signs and symptoms associated with DVT, as well as their individual risks.

Risk Factors
DVT may be caused by a variety of risk factors and triggering events, including restricted mobility (such as with long-distance travel), major surgery, cancer, certain heart or respiratory diseases, predisposition to clotting, varicose veins, smoking, obesity, pregnancy, advanced age, and use of estrogen-containing drugs such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Among plastic surgery patients, a combination of risk factors and the type of surgery may predispose a patient to VTE. Each patient requires an individualized evaluation to assess whether he or she possesses risk factors beyond the major risk of surgery. A patient history that specifically focuses on VTE risk factors should be done within a few weeks before surgery.

Many patients will not have any symptoms. Patients who believe they may be experiencing the signs and symptoms of DVT or PE should seek medical help immediately:

Deep Vein Thrombosis

  • Usually occurs in one leg, above or below the knee
  • Swelling – one calf or thigh may be larger than the other. When swollen area is pressed with a finger, a depression may remain
  • Swelling along the vein of the leg
  • Feeling of increased warmth in the are of the leg that is swollen or painful
  • Leg pain, which may increase when standing or walking
  • Tenderness of the leg that may be confined to one area
  • Change in leg skin color (bluish or red)

Pulmonary Embolism

  • Chest pain that gets worse with deep breath, coughing, or chest movement
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness

If you believe you are at risk or if you are undergoing a surgical procedure, speak with your doctor about prevention of DVT and PE.

Despite a relatively low percentage of VTE events reported for plastic surgery as compared to other surgical specialties, plastic surgery patients require VTE prevention and prophylaxis. According to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), an estimated 18,000 cases of DVT may occur each year in plastic surgery patients. As more patients seek plastic surgery and surgeons perform more complex and/or combined procedures, each should receive the most appropriate method of prophylaxis for his or her individual condition.

ASAPS has joined the Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis in their mission to reduce the immediate and long-term dangers of deep-vein thrombosis DVT and PE by educating the public, healthcare professionals and policy-makers about risk factors, symptoms and signs associated with DVT, as well as identifying evidence-based measures to prevent morbidity and mortality from DVT and PE. For more information about DVT and PE, please visit www.preventdvt.org.


The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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