You’ve just returned home following hospitalization for surgery, when you notice your leg is swollen, and it is warm and sensitive to touch. Your initial thoughts are you bumped it in an unfamiliar space, or worse, it’s an infection. But do you consider the possibility of a blood clot?

If you are like the majority of Canadians, you don’t know a lot about thrombosis (blood clots). This lack of knowledge is the impetus behind the new “C-L-O-T-S” campaign to help people quickly recognize that they could be experiencing a blood clot and seek appropriate medical attention.

“Unfortunately, our survey showed that 60 per cent of Canadians don’t know that blood clots can be prevented.”

The results of the #KNOWTHROMBOSIS Survey, commissioned by Thrombosis Canada last fall, showed most Canadians are not aware of the warning signs associated with blood clots, and that they are preventable. Thrombosis is the underlying cause of the top three cardiovascular killers: heart attack, stroke and venous thromboembolism (VTE).

“The good news about blood clots is that they can be prevented – but the key to prevention is knowing what to look for and recognizing what having a blood clot may feel like,” said Agnes Lee, professor, department of medicine, medical director, Thrombosis Program, UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health. “The C-L-O-T-S campaign is based on an acronym that highlights the most common and easy-to-understand warning signs for blood clots and simple instructions to take action.”

With visual tools, videos and social media, the C-L-O-T-S campaign highlights the most common symptoms that people with a blood clot may experience:

  • Chest Pain
  • Light-headedness
  • Out of breath
  • Leg Tenderness
  • Leg Swelling

“From our findings, we’re buoyed by the fact that 86 per cent of Canadians know that blood clots can be fatal, yet oddly, less than a third (31 per cent) are very concerned about them,” said Dr. Lee.  “People need to know that chest pain, feeling light headed, being out of breath, and having tenderness or swelling in the leg are critical warning signs that you may have a serious blood clot.”

Understanding the types of blood clots

Most DVTs start in the veins of the leg. If the clot travels to the lungs it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal. DVT and PE are collectively known as venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is a major public health problem, affecting about 100,000 Canadians and causing 10,000 deaths each year. Annually, VTE causes more deaths in Canada than breast cancer, HIV and motor vehicle accidents combined.

“Unfortunately, our survey showed that 60 per cent of Canadians don’t know that blood clots can be prevented,” said Dr. Deborah Siegal, assistant professor, Division of Hematology and Thromboembolism, Department of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton. “As medical professionals, we saw the need to develop tools to increase public understanding about thrombosis. By outlining the key warning signs of DVT through the C-L-O-T-S campaign, we’re hoping Canadians will recognize that having one or more of these symptoms should be a ‘wake-up call’ to seek medical attention,” she adds.

Infographic: Thrombosis Canada.

Adds Dr. Lee, “If you start experiencing any or all of the warning signs, do not ignore them – especially if you have multiple symptoms. As with many illnesses, the sooner you seek medical help, the better your outcome will be.”

Thrombosis Canada comprises a membership that includes the most eminent and internationally recognized thrombosis experts globally. Members have made many significant contributions to the body of knowledge in vascular medicine and disseminated that knowledge through hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, as well leading the development of international clinical practice guidelines.

Fast facts

  • Only 43 per cent of Canadians are aware that deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the veins of the leg – significantly below other conditions including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
  • Only 25 per cent of Canadians are concerned about DVT even though it can kill quickly.
  • 79 per cent of Canadians don’t know what a DVT would feel like.
  • Most people think inactivity and air flights are the biggest risk factors for DVT, when in fact they are surgery, cancer, hospitalization and pregnancy.Thrombosis Canada acknowledges Leo Pharma for their support of this awareness campaign.For more information, visit Thrombosis Canada.