To reduce the risk of DVT and take steps for the prevention and treatment of potential blood clots (DVT), it is important to be aware of a few treatment approaches, which you should discuss with your doctor.

In the days and weeks after surgery, you have a higher chance of developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a condition in which a blood clot or thrombus develops in a deep vein. These are most common in the leg. A DVT may however develop in the arm, or another deep vein in the body. A piece of the clot, called an embolus, can separate from the vein and travel to the lungs. A blood clot in the lungs is called a pulmonary embolus (PE). This can cut off the flow of blood to the lungs. It is a medical emergency and can be life threatening.

Taking steps for the prevention and treatment of blood clots after hip and knee replacement surgery is an important part of your recovery. Joint replacement patients are at highest risk for developing a DVT two to 10 days after surgery, and remain at risk for approximately three months.

To prevent the occurrence of a blood clot, your doctor will likely prescribe a combination of treatment approaches for you, which may include:

  • Exercise/physical therapy beginning the first day after surgery and continuing for several months
  • Compression stockings
  • Anti-clotting medicine to reduce the body’s ability to form blood clots

Prevention in the hospital or other facility

Your healthcare provider will usually prescribe one or more of the following to prevent blood clots:


An anti-clotting medication may be prescribed to prevent blood clots and to treat them. This class of drug is referred to as an anticoagulant, or blood thinner. It is important that your doctor discusses the risks and benefits with you. Joint replacement patients typically begin to receive anti-clotting medicine the day after surgery, continuing throughout their hospital stay and into at-home rehabilitation.

Compression stockings

These are elastic stockings that fit tightly around your legs (they are tight at the ankle and become looser higher up on the leg). They help keep blood flowing toward your heart by the pressure they apply. They prevent blood from pooling and forming blood clots.


Simple exercises while you are resting in bed or sitting in a chair can help prevent blood clots. Move your feet in a circle or up and down. Do this 10 times an hour to improve circulation.

Ambulation (getting out of bed and walking)

After surgery, a nurse will help you out of bed, as soon as you are able. Moving around improves circulation and helps prevent blood clots. You will likely work with a physical therapist to perform specific exercises that are designed to restore joint range of motion, strengthen your lower body, and improve circulation in your deep veins.

Prevention at home

Deep vein thrombosis can happen even after you go home. Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. The following are some general guidelines about DVT prevention:

Anticoagulant medicine. Make sure you follow all directions from your doctor.

Compression stockings. . Follow all instructions from your doctor or healthcare provider reading the frequency of wearing the stockings. When you remove your stockings, check your legs and feet for reddened areas or sores. If you see any changes, call your healthcare provider right away.

Returning to activity.  Be as active as you can. This improves blood flow and helps prevent a clot from forming. If you are lying or sitting continue with ankle exercises to keep the circulation flowing.

While you are recovering from your joint replacement surgery, be on the lookout for possible blood clots and contact your physician immediately if you experience any of the signs or symptoms of a blood clot.

Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT or blood clots in your leg or arm)

Swelling, usually in one leg (or arm)

  • Pain or tenderness not caused by an injury – it often feel like a leg cramp that will not go away
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Redness in skin
  • If you experience any of these symptoms, call a doctor as soon as you can.
  • Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism (PE or blood clots in your lungs)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest or back pain that worsens with a deep breath
  • Coughing, or coughing up blood

A PE can be fatal, if you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical attention.


This article ” Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) After Surgery ‘does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor for all medical advice. 

Meet Dr Peter Smith, a leading Orthopaedic Surgeon operating from the Mediclinic Milnerton in Cape Town, Western Cape. His practice is situated in the heart of this seaside town.  Dr Peter Smith not only offers patients the full spectrum of professional orthopaedic treatments, but specialises in total knee replacement, total hip replacement, sports injuries and the latest arthroscopic surgery techniques and computer guided surgery. He gained extensive experience in the latest arthroplasty techniques during his stay of 6 years in Australia where he performed more than a hundred primary and revision hip and knee replacements cases in a year.

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