DVT Prevention After Plastic Surgery

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Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot formation that often occurs in the lower extremities.  While obesity and use of certain medications (e.g., birth pills and hormonal replacement therapy) are known as risk factors, plastic surgery patients who have been immobile for a long period of time are also at risk.

For healthy patients, DVT after an elective plastic surgery is quite rare.  Nevertheless, I always recommend preemptive measures to reduce blood clot risk and its subsequent complications.

The best way to avoid or at least reduce the risk of DVT is to perform light exercise a day after surgery, or even as soon as the patient is able to do so safely.  If walking is not yet possible, leg raise, ankle rotation, and other forms of chair/bed exercise are enough to improve blood circulation and prevent blood clot formation.

And because prolonged immobility must be avoided, I always advise my patients to avoid long car trips and flights for a couple of days or weeks, depending on the extent of their surgery.  If they live far from the surgical site, they need to stay near the vicinity for a certain period of time to avoid long travels and to receive immediate medical attention in case they experience any healing problem.

Aside from prolonged immobility, another DVT risk factor is estrogen, which is found in birth control pills and hormone replacements.  And because they are also known to affect wound healing, they must be avoided several weeks before the surgery.

Smoking, passive smoking, and use of nicotine gums and patches can also expose the patient to higher risk of blood clots because nicotine is a vasoconstrictor chemical in which its main effect is to reduce the size of blood vessels, which could result in DVT, delayed wound healing, and skin necrosis or death of skin tissue.

While factors such as smoking, use of estrogen-containing pills, and prolonged immobility are often easy to avoid, this is not always the case with medical conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure that can also increase DVT risk.  A good rule of thumb is not to operate on anyone who is not physically fit.

Nevertheless, some patients whose medical conditions are well under control—through lifestyle changes and/or use of medications—might be good candidates for cosmetic plastic surgery.  For these individuals, I often work closely with their primary care physician or specialist.
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Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon