Blood Clot Awareness Month

Every March, Blood Clot Awareness Month provides cardiovascular health care professionals with an opportunity to refresh their knowledge, and help patients better understand—and reduce—their risk.

Blood Clot Development

When a blood vessel is damaged, the body responds to stop the bleeding by the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) of platelets, proteins, and blood cells. When bleeding stops and the body heals, the thrombus typically breaks down and is removed by the body.

Sometimes, thrombi form when they are not needed or do not dissolve as they should. This can cause a decrease or blockage in blood flow.

When a thrombus or a piece of thrombus breaks off from where it is formed and travels to another part of the body where it blocks blood flow, it is called an embolism. An embolism is life-threatening and may cause a stroke, heart attack, or other complications.

  • Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the development of blood clots in the veins. VTE is often undiagnosed but is often preventable.
    • A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is the development of a clot inside a deep vein—often in the lower leg or thigh. This usually affects one side of the body. A DVT can cause serious illness, disability, or even death.
    • A Pulmonary Embolism (PE) is a clot that has traveled to the lungs.

Clotting is not typically an isolated incident. Up to 30% of people who have had a blood clot will develop clots again within 10 years.1

Blood Clots Can Kill

Clots affect around 900,000 Americans each year and are the cause of death for as many as 100,000 individuals per year.[i] There often is no warning for those who have clots—in fact, 1 in 4 people who have a PE die without warning.

Blood Clot Prevention

Healthcare professionals have a critical role to play in the prevention of clot formation by helping patients understand and reduce their risks.

Risk factors that can increase the production of a thrombus:

  • Major surgery
  • Bone or joint surgery
  • Fracture of a bone or joint
  • Major injury
  • Recent cancer diagnosis or treatment
  • Sitting or lying down for long periods of time, such as with long-distance travel, bed rest, or hospitalization
  • Pregnancy, recent childbirth
  • Taking birth control pills or other hormones
  • Family history of blood clots or a blood clotting disorder

Men and women of all ages and races can get blood clots. Age can play a role in increasing risk, as after 40, the risk doubles with each additional 10 years of age.[ii]

For some patients, a prescription for an anticoagulant, compression stockings, intermittent compression devices, or surgery may be appropriate. Follow current medical guidelines and utilize shared decision-making.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of VTE

  • Shortness of breath for no reason
  • Fast breathing
  • Chest pain or tightness that may worsen with a deep breath
  • Fast pulse rate
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or weak
  • Fainting or blacking out
  • Cough, with or without producing blood
  • Pain extending to shoulder, arm, back, or jaw
  • Sudden weakness or numbness in face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Changes in skin color—redness
  • Skin that feels warm or hot to the touch
  • Pain or tenderness—especially in the lower leg or calf

Clinical Takeaways

  • Share the risk factors for developing VTE with patients. Encourage smoking cessation, regular physical activity, and adherence to medication to decrease the development of clots.
  • Ensure that patients who have undergone cardiac or other procedures are encouraged and supported in getting up and moving around as much as possible
  • When a patient is discharged to home or to a facility such as physical rehabilitation, it is important to track changes in the electronic medical record (EMR), provide instruction, tools, and coordinate follow-ups such as cardiac rehab referrals to reduce risk of stroke or heart attack by keeping blood vessels as healthy as possible

Resources for Blood Clot Awareness Month and Beyond

Learn more about Blood Clot Awareness Month and access related materials at

PCNA has educational materials available to help patients better understand their risk of developing clots.

The complimentary course Prevention and Treatment of VTE from Hospital to Home reviews VTE and best practices in prevention and treatment. It is available for 1.0 CE contact hours, 0.25 CE pharmacology hours.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Impact of Blood Clots on the United States. 2023. Accessed February 23, 2024.

[ii] American Heart Association. Who Is at Risk for Venous Thromboembolism? 2023. Accessed February 26, 2024.

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