The Silent Killer

Guess what? There’s a potentially life-threatening health problem that you may have overlooked.

The Silent Killer


DID YOU KNOW that next to heart attack and stroke, venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the third most common cardiovascular disease? By definition, VTE is a blood clot that develops in the deep veins, typically in the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT), which may become dislodged and travels to the lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE). PE may cause sudden death by obstructing the flow of blood.

“Post-trauma, post-surgery, cancer and even pregnancy can increase the risk of developing a thrombosis [blood clot]. In Asia, there are an estimated 50 out of 100,000 people suffering from VTE in which 70% are acquired from hospital. Adding to that,
5 to 10% of all hospital deaths are due to PE,” says MH adviser Dr Jameela Sathar.

The key issue at hand is that detecting VTE can be a tricky business since it is often mistaken for other health conditions. For instance, the symptoms and signs may mimic those of a heart attack or pneumonia in PE, or a leg infection, a muscle tear or water retention in DVT. Instead of a simple ECG test, it requires more advanced imaging technologies such as Doppler ultrasound or CT scan plus pulmonary angiogram to confirm the diagnosis.

“You should always consider the possibility of DVT and PE when you’re experiencing swelling and pain of the whole leg, as well as sudden and unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain and a cough that brings up blood-stained sputum, respectively,” she advises.

Aside from keeping the public informed, medical practitioners are now getting acquainted with VTE through newly launched clinical practice guidelines and road shows. The disease can be fatal, but immediate treatment with anti-clotting medications can greatly reduce the chance of dying. Taking measures to prevent blood clots in your legs such as early mobilisation after surgery, compression stockings and anti-clotting medications for individuals at-risk can help protect you against PE.

Now that the previously unknown has been exposed,“it’s important that you ask your doctor if VTE is a likely diagnosis especially if you have undergone a surgery or you have had a long stay in the hospital,” she says, and adds, “I would like to advise everyone to maintain a healthy lifestyle, avoid being overweight and stop smoking as these are contributing factors for thrombosis.”



Words by John Ng. Image from Stockxchange