With your upcoming double mastectomy, you may be worried about a DVT developing after the surgery.
And yes, a deep vein thrombosis is possible following a double mastectomy.
But the possibility of a DVT after a bilateral mastectomy doesn’t mean you should lose sleep from worry.
“Venous thromboembolism, which includes both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), can be a potentially fatal disease, so it’s valid for patients to ask, ‘How might breast surgery affect my risk for developing a DVT or PE?’” begins Rola E. Eid, DO, FACOS, Medical Director of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery & Plastic Surgeon, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southwestern Regional Medical Center.
“Somewhat recently, there was a study [Tran et al, The Breast, August 2013] that helps us to quantify just how many DVTs and/or PEs typically occur in mastectomy patients compared to the general population.
“Researchers found that among the general population (and this is age-adjusted) about one in 1,000 people develop a DVT and/or PE.
“Women undergoing mastectomy have about a two in 1,000 incidence of a DVT and/or PE, so for most women reading this, the takeaway is that their risk of experiencing a venous thromboembolism is quite rare.”
Prevention of DVT after Double Mastectomy
Dr. Eid explains, “What may help to keep the overall incidence of DVTs and/or PEs so low among mastectomy patients is that many surgeons remain mindful and vigilant of preventing this potentially dangerous condition.”
A deep vein thrombosis usually develops in the lower extremities and may remain stable until the body’s own mechanism resolves it.
On the other hand, part or all of such a blood clot can spontaneously dislodge and within moments, plug up a vein in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), causing shortness of breath or in the worst case scenario, immediate death.
“Breast surgeons and plastic surgeons will have protocols for DVT prophylaxis (prevention), DVT surveillance and the use of anticoagulants (blood thinners) to help minimize the formation of DVTs and/or PEs throughout the surgical and recovery process,” says Dr. Eid.
“For my patients undergoing immediate breast reconstructive surgery, we utilize mechanized compression stockings that are placed on a patent’s feet just prior to surgery and provide continual waves of comfortable compression throughout surgery—this helps to minimize the formation of blood clots.
“In addition to mechanical prevention, a blood thinner can be utilized during surgery. Following surgery, a blood thinner may be continued each day the patient recovers in the hospital.
“Patients are encouraged to begin walking as soon after surgery as they are able to safely do so, and to continue walking throughout the entire recovery process.”