What Are Blood Clots?

  • It is important to understand the symptoms of blood clots in order to properly identify them in patients.   
  • There are certain risk factors associated with blood clots that must be understood.   
  • The nurse has an important role in providing interventions to patients with a blood clot.   

Katy Luggar-Schmit


May 19, 2023
Simmons University

Blood clots are clumps of blood that come in varied sizes that can form inside the body.  The ability of blood to clot is important because if a person becomes injured, clotting prevents excessive bleeding. 

However, sometimes the blood clots too well, blocking blood flow to important areas of the body.  When this occurs, it can be harmful and even fatal.  The most common areas in which blood clots form are the arms, legs, abdomen, heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys.  Depending on which area the clot blocks or the location it moves to within the body, a blood clot can be fatal.   


blood clots symptoms

Symptoms of a Blood Clot

Symptoms are different depending on where the blood clot is located.  If the clot is in the patient’s arms or legs, they may have cramping, swelling, and tenderness in the area where the clot is located.  If the patient is experiencing a blood clot in their abdomen, he/she may experience severe stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Blood clots that have traveled to the patient’s heart cause the patient to feel heaviness in their chest, pain in their upper body, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and light headedness.  If the clot has moved to the patient’s lungs he/she may experience sharp chest pain, racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, swelling, fever, and possibly coughing up blood.  Lastly, a blood clot that is in the brain may cause facial weakness, leg or arm weakness, speech and vision challenges, headache, and dizziness.  If one suspects a patient has a blood clot, immediate action is necessary.  

Risk Factors Associated With Blood Clots

The body reacts to an injury by clotting the blood and this typically causes no issue; however, sometimes a blood clot will form without a trigger and this is more likely to happen with certain risk factors or conditions.  A few common risk factors for blood clots are blood clotting disorders, prolonged sitting when traveling, prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, obesity, smoking, and family history. 

Blood clots can happen to anyone at any age but those who are more susceptible are those with risk factors for clots. The elderly population is also at an increased risk because they tend to sit and sleep in one place for extended periods of time without ambulation. If you work with the elderly population, it is important to change their position frequently and ambulate them as much as possible to lower the likelihood of developing a clot.  

Nursing Interventions

As a nurse caring for a patient with any symptoms of a blood clot, action needs to be taken right away.  The doctor may order a blood test or venography to diagnose a blood clot.  Venography is a radiologic test that will allow the physician to see the veins in the body and locate the clot(s). 

Depending on the findings, blood thinners may be prescribed to help dissolve the clot.  If these medications are ordered, it is important to administer them as scheduled.  Other nursing interventions may include the following: 

Patient Care and Current Staffing 

Using compression stockings and other compression devices will help increase blood flow to the deep veins such as the femoral vein in the leg.  This intervention helps reduce the caliber of the superficial veins and can be done on the affected extremity.  

Bed Positions and Exercise

This is particularly important for those patients on bedrest.  Assist the patient in performing leg exercises to improve blood flow, despite their immobility.  Encourage the patient to perform these to both the unaffected and the affected extremity.  

Help Patients Feel More Comfortable:

Use of warm compresses and ambulating the patient may assist in providing comfort to the patient with a blood clot.  Close monitoring of the location of the blood clot is very important to ensure the blood clot does not travel to an area that has the potential to be fatal.  

blood clots

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, blood clots are typically a treatable medical condition if they are caught early and intervention is provided as soon as possible.  It is important to be aware of the patient’s medications, medical history, and any risk factors that he/she may have which can place an individual at an increased risk for developing a blood clot.  It is imperative to take note of any changes that are concerning and alert the physician right away.  Each of these steps will help ensure patient safety and positive health outcomes. 

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