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Some Catheters May Increase Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

According to a study conducted by the researchers of the University of Michigan Health System, peripherally inserted central catheters or PICC doubles the risk of the patient to develop deep vein thrombosis compared to other central venous catheters. Also, patients who are critically ill or have cancers are more at risk to develop deep vein thrombosis when PICCs are used on them compared to other catheters.

Peripherally inserted central catheters are used more often these days. According to previous studies, this device is more preferred because PICCs lessen the occurrence of infections. PICCs are used to administer long-term drugs, antibiotics and other intravenous fluids. This device is safer and more convenient since it can be replaced while the patient is lying down, and can stay in place longer, lasting for up to a few months. Since this catheter stays longer, the patient can still receive medication continuously even if they are already at home.   

However, despite the convenience brought by the PICC Dr. Vineet Chopra, the lead researcher of the study and a doctor at the University of Michigan Health System, said that there are still risks for using PICC. He warned that PICCs may not be appropriate for some patients and added that inappropriate use of PICC, especially for cancer and critically ill patients, can lead to clotting and deep vein thrombosis. He suggested that health practitioners study first and weigh the possible side effects of using PICC on certain patients.

Dr. Vineet Chopra and his team particularly analyzed the risk of deep vein thrombosis when using peripherally inserted central catheters and central venous catheters (CVC). They were able to find out that patients who were administered with PICC were two times more at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis compared to patients with CVC. They also found out that the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis was more common among ICU patients.

Deep vein thrombosis caused by the use of PICC can be life threatening. Less severe cases of deep vein thrombosis can cause numbness in the arms and legs, pain, and venous damage. Severe cases can lead to pulmonary embolism and eventually death. Pulmonary embolism happens when the blood clots move up to the lungs, and block the main arteries; people suffering from pulmonary embolism may experience difficulty breathing, palpitations, and chest pains.

Dr. Chopra further added that more and more Americans are being hospitalized because of deep vein thrombosis. On average, there are around 330,000 Americans who are hospitalized each year because of such blood clot problems.

Dr. Scott Flanders, MD, a senior author of the study and a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, added that the population who are at risk of such vein disorder are the ones that need such type of catheter. For example, critically ill patients need PICC for continuous medications, however, they are at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis because of their immobility. He further added that their results show that there is a higher risk of developing DVT from using PICC compared to what most clinicians suspect.

Read on to find out more about deep vein thrombosis

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