Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis with Aspirin

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Is taking aspirin a good idea for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis? This lesson explains if that's the case as you learn a bit about deep vein thrombosis and aspirin as well.

Aspirin for Everything

Aspirin seems to be touted as a cure-all these days. Take it for this, take it for that, and you'll live to be 1,000 years old! Ok, that's an exaggeration, but you know where I'm coming from. So, perhaps then, it's not too shocking to hear that aspirin has also been touted as a way to prevent deep vein thrombosis.

Let's see if this is actually true or not. But first, it's important we understand what deep vein thrombosis is, what causes it, and what aspirin is to see if these two work well together.

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein (venous) thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a thrombus, a blood clot, develops in the deep vein(s) of the body. While these blood clots can technically develop in just about any deep vein of the body, they generally tend to occur in the deep veins of the leg. This can lead to swelling and pain of the leg but sometimes may result in no signs or symptoms at all. The swelling and pain of the leg(s) as a result of DVT is the least of your worries, however.

Deep Vein Thrombosis in the Lower Leg
deep vein thrombosis

There is a possibility that a little piece of the thrombus may break off. Once broken off, this little piece is now called an embolus. This embolus can travel to, and lodge itself within, the lungs. A blood clot in the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism because pulmon- means lungs. In some cases, a pulmonary embolism can lead to death. That's why DVT should not be taken lightly.

DVT can be caused by many things, including clotting disorders of the body where the blood clots too easily; injury to the deep veins of the body, such as from an accident or surgery; or even general lack of mobility, such as when a person sits for too long during an airplane ride.

What is Aspirin?

Briefly, let's turn our attention to acetylsalicylic acid, otherwise just called aspirin. This is a kind of NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Aspirin is used to relieve pain and to reduce a fever. So, people who have headaches, muscle pain, or even arthritis may take an aspirin. Other people may have been told to take an aspirin to reduce the risk of a stroke or a heart attack.

The reason some doctors tell their patients to take aspirin to help prevent a stroke or heart attack is because both may be caused by a blood clot (thrombus). Aspirin helps prevent the formation of blood clots. It does so by stopping blood components called platelets from sticking to one another, so it's also classified as an antiplatelet drug. Platelets are important for the formation of blood clots. If platelets can't stick together, blood clots are less likely to form.

Is Aspirin Useful For DVT?

So is aspirin useful for treating or preventing DVT? Well, aspirin helps prevent blood clot formation but it doesn't break up the blood clot. This means if DVT has already occurred, it won't dissolve a blood clot that's already there. However, there is some evidence that aspirin is helpful in preventing DVT.

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