Sidelining a “Silent Killer”

Mar 16, 2009
Health Care

A potentially life-threatening health condition affects millions of Americans each year but, tragically, most aren’t aware of the signs, symptoms or risk factors until it is too late.

The condition is deep-vein thrombosis, commonly referred to as DVT. While up to 2 million Americans suffer from DVT annually, most people know far less about it than they do about allergies. A survey found 79 percent know “something or a great deal” about allergies, while just 25 percent know that much about DVT.

DVT is a blood clot, often found in your legs, which can break off and travel to your lungs causing a potentially fatal condition called pulmonary embolism or PE.

The statistics surrounding DVT and its related complication, PE, are staggering: approximately 300,000 Americans die each year from DVT and PE, and complications from DVT kill more Americans than breast cancer and AIDS combined. DVT-related PE is the most common cause of preventable hospital death in the United States.

DVT is a national public health crisis, but many patients – and even healthcare professionals – are unaware of the risk. There is progress being made, including a Call to Action on DVT and PE released last year by the Office of the Surgeon General. It is designed to drive awareness in order to reduce the number of cases of DVT in the United States. However, there is still more work to be done.

We decided to become more involved in the effort to prevent DVT because both our lives have been tragically touched by this condition. In 1997 Congresswoman Capps’ husband, Congressman Walter Capps, died from a cardiac incident which may have been caused by DVT and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ mentor and friend, former Washington State Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, died due to DVT-related conditions in 2007. It is our hope that this resolution is just the start of several policy initiatives that will raise awareness of DVT and ultimately reduce the preventable deaths caused by this condition.

This year we joined forces with the Coalition to Prevent DVT to help stop DVT before it strikes. We’ve introduced a resolution recognizing the second Tuesday in March as National DVT Screening Day. Through this resolution, we hope to highlight DVT as a national public health priority and honor the memory of beloved Congresswoman Dunn, who died due to DVT-related complications in 2007. Her son, Seattle’s King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, was present during the introduction in honor of his mother.

Recognizing the importance of this resolution, the Coalition to Prevent DVT is launching a nationwide DVT RV tour – Driving to Reduce the Risks of DVT – on the first DVT Screening Day to drive dialogue about the need for proper DVT screening. By bringing this national health issue to local communities, the Coalition hopes to highlight the burden of this condition and underscore the need for greater risk assessment and proper treatment.

For more than six years, the Coalition to Prevent DVT, made up of more than 60 members from medical societies, patient advocacy groups and other public health organizations, has been committed to making a difference for patients and their loved ones and has worked tirelessly to increase public awareness and establish DVT as a national health priority.

Through efforts such as National DVT Screening Day and the Driving to Reduce the Risks of DVT RV tour, we challenge healthcare professionals to properly screen and treat patients for DVT in hospitals and healthcare offices throughout the country. With these goals in mind, we strive to reduce the incidence of DVT and PE.

March is DVT Awareness Month but our efforts won’t end when the month does. The DVT RV tour is taking to the road to educate doctors and patients about the risk factors and ways to prevent DVT. Look for the RV in a city near you sometime between now and May and join forces with the millions of Americans who’ve been affected by DVT, the Coalition and ourselves to spread awareness about this serious, yet preventable condition. With your help, DVT risk can be reduced. Visit for more information.

–By Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

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