A blood clot is a potential complication after surgery. To help prevent blood clots, a doctor may advise doing exercises to promote blood flow, wearing compression garments, and taking blood-thinning medications.

Blood clotting is an important process that can prevent excessive bleeding after injury to a blood vessel. However, in some cases, blood clots can restrict blood flow and cause complications. Surgery is a major risk factor for developing a blood clot due to numerous factors.

After surgery, healthcare professionals will recommend a combination of approaches to promote healthy blood flow and reduce the risk of developing blood clots.

Read on to learn more about why blood clots may occur after surgery and how to prevent them.

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Blood clotting, also known as coagulation, is an important process that can prevent excessive bleeding. A blood clot, or a thrombus, describes when substances in the blood thicken and form a mass.

Blood clots can occur in veins or arteries. Health experts may refer to blood clots as venous thromboembolisms (VTEs). VTE is an umbrella term that can refer to both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

Read on to learn more about different types of blood clots.

Blood clots are a potential risk following surgery. To help prevent blood clots, a doctor may advise the following:


A person may work with a physical therapist after a surgical procedure. They will help the individual perform specific exercises to improve circulation. The physical therapist will tailor the exercises to the individual depending on the type of surgery they had and their physical capabilities.

Previously, experts may have advised bed rest following surgery. However, evidence suggests that early ambulation, or engaging in light activity shortly after an operation, may be beneficial for recovery and blood clot prevention. Similarly, a 2023 review indicates that early mobilization can be essential in the treatment of blood clots.

Mechanical prevention

Mechanical measures include compression stockings or mechanical or pneumatic compression devices that help improve circulation.

Compression stockings are elastic stockings that fit tightly around the legs. They can promote blood flow toward the heart by applying pressure. Compression devices are typically plastic sleeves that people can wear. The sleeve connects to an air pump that inflates and deflates the sleeve. They also help promote circulation.


Also known as blood thinners, these drugs prevent the blood from thickening, or clotting. There are different types of blood thinners. However, they all work in a similar way by disrupting the process that forms blood clots. Common examples include warfarin and heparin.

While these medications can help prevent blood clots, they also pose a risk of excessive bleeding. As such, a doctor will advise on whether they think blood thinners are a safe and suitable treatment following surgery.

Read on to learn more about anticoagulant medications.

Evidence suggests that without preventive treatment, there is a high risk of blood clots occurring following surgery. Many factors that relate to surgery can increase a person’s risk of developing a blood clot.

Major surgery — particularly of the pelvis, abdomen, hip, or knee — is more likely to result in a blood clot. This can be due to the longer operative times and significant trauma to tissue, such as the inner lining of a vein.

Additionally, a person’s blood flow is likely to be sluggish after surgery due to prolonged periods of inactivity during the recovery phase.

Blood clots can affect anyone at any age. Certain risk factors, such as surgery, can increase the risk of developing blood clots. Evidence suggests that half of blood clots occur during or shortly after hospitalization or surgery.

Many factors, such as lifestyle choices, genetics, medications, and other health conditions, can increase the risk of blood clotting. The following factors can increase a person’s risk of developing a blood clot:

  • immobilization
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • pregnancy
  • use of oral contraceptives
  • older age
  • a family history of blood clots
  • injuries and trauma
  • certain cancers
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure

Recognizing the signs of a blood clot is crucial for a timely intervention. Symptoms of a blood clot may vary depending on the location of the blood clot.

Symptoms of a blood clot in the limbs may include:

  • swelling
  • pain or tenderness
  • skin that is warm to the touch
  • discoloration of the skin

Symptoms of a blood clot in the lung can include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain that worsens with deep breathing
  • coughing, particularly if a person coughs blood
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat

Some health experts may use the acronym STOP the CLOT for the symptoms of blood clots. This acronym refers to:

  • Swelling in the leg
  • Tenderness, such as leg cramps
  • Out of breath
  • Passing out, or feeling lightheaded
  • Chest pain, which may also include back pain when breathing
  • Leg discoloration
  • Overdrive, or racing heart
  • Time to call for medical assistance

Read on to learn more about blood clot symptoms.

Surgery is a common risk factor for developing blood clots. They may occur due to trauma from the surgery or long periods of inactivity.

Following surgery, a person’s healthcare team can advise on preventive measures to reduce the risk of blood clots. These typically include light exercise, compression devices, and blood thinners.