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Blood clots after surgery are often linked to use of a catheter

Blood clots can form easily after surgery. That’s why doctors are advised to use medications to prevent them. A new study, however, has found that use of a catheter remains a risk factor for developing blood clots.

A blood clot forming in a deep vein occurs in about 40% of surgery patients with a 1% death rate -- unless protective measures are taken. Using anti-clotting medications reduces the risk of blood clots dramatically, but some surgeons have been reluctant to use them because they increase the risk of bleeding.

In a new study from researchers at UC Irvine, 2,189 surgeries were analyzed. The study found that the use of blood-thinning medications was high and the incidence of blood clots was low. But more than half of the clots that did occur were caused by central catheters.

Efforts should be made to minimize the use of catheters or consider higher doses of blood-thinning medications when the catheters are present, the authors said.

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The study is published Monday in the Archives of Surgery.

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