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Office of Minority Health Urges Prevention Of Blood Clots

Fri, 09/18/2009 - 6:49am

One person dies every five to six minutes from a Deep Vein Thrombosis or Pulmonary Embolism related event in America and extended bed rest after a surgical procedure is a risk factor

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaking at the Venous Disease Coalition (VDC) Annual Meeting today, Dr. Garth Graham from the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services followed up on last year's Surgeon General's Call to Action by focusing attention on the African American population which is at significantly increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE).

African Americans have a significantly higher risk of developing potentially deadly DVT and PE compared with other ethnic populations in the U.S., according to data presented by Dr. Graham.

"One person dies every five to six minutes from a DVT or PE related event in America, and some groups such as African Americans are at a significantly higher risk of developing these conditions," said Dr. Graham, who lost his sister to PE. "Many of the causes of DVT are entirely preventable and easily treatable, so it's crucial that people understand their level of risk and take action to reduce this. Improved awareness and access to treatment can save a great number of lives."

To help raise awareness, the VDC has launched the "Pause for Prevention" DVT and PE Assessment, a tool to help people better understand if they are at risk for DVT or PE. This is available on www.venousdiseasecoalition.org.

"I suffered from DVT just over six years ago when I was in my mid-twenties, and the experience was daunting. Not necessarily because of the clots per se, those were treatable, but because it took several trips to doctors and the ER before I had an accurate diagnosis and started to receive appropriate treatment," comments Traci Wilkes Smith. "I am reaching out to others to let them know to ask more questions and be more aggressive if you suspect something is wrong. Know the signs and be an informed patient, it could save your life."

Approximately 350,000 to 600,000 Americans suffer from DVT and PE each year, and at least 100,000 deaths may be directly or indirectly related to these diseases. African Americans have a remarkable 30 percent higher risk of DVT and PE than the Caucasian population.(1)

According to Samuel Z. Goldhaber, MD, president of the Venous Disease Coalition and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, "With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the majority of DVTs are not life threatening. We can help reduce deaths from these serious yet often preventable conditions through education and outreach to at-risk groups including African Americans."

DVT occurs when a blood clot develops in the large veins of the legs or pelvic area. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the majority of DVTs are not life threatening. However, DVT can be dangerous in two ways.

  • First, DVT can be fatal if a blood clot breaks free and travels through the heart and into the lungs. This complication is called pulmonary embolism (PE).
  • Second, because blood clots can permanently damage the veins, as many as half of DVT survivors can experience post-thrombotic syndrome which causes long-term leg pain, heaviness and swelling that can progress to difficulty walking, changes in skin color and open leg sores.

Risk factors for developing DVT / PE include:

  • Extended bed rest (such as during or after a surgical procedure or illness (such as heart attack or stroke)
  • Confinement and inability to walk (such as during prolonged air or car travel).
  • Hereditary factors.
  • Medical conditions (such as congestive heart failure, severe obesity, chronic respiratory failure).
  • Aistory of smoking.
  • Varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy and estrogen treatment.
  • Some cancers or cancer treatments that predispose the blood to clotting.

Reasons why African Americas are at increased risk for DVT and PE remain to be determined. To view a short video clip of Dr. Graham speaking about the increased risks for DVT and PE in African Americans visit, http://www.omhrc.gov/templates/content.aspx?lvl3&lvlid309&id8 49. At last year's VDC meeting, Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson issued "The Surgeon General's Call to Action for the Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism."

For more information, visit www.VenousDiseaseCoalition.org.

References (1) White RH, Zhou H, Murin S, Harvey D. Effect of ethnicity and gender on the incidence of venous thromboembolism in a diverse population in California in 1996. Thromb Haemost 2005;93(2):298-305. SOURCE Venous Disease Coalition

 

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