May 2017
In This Issue
Venous Thromboembolism Awareness 

Institute Happenings 

Upcoming Events 
  Recent Blogs 
Dear Friends, 

When we think of the term “blood clot,” stroke and heart attack almost always come to mind. Yet, in the United States alone, approximately 1 out of 1000 individuals will experience a venous thromboembolism (VTE) - a potentially life threatening blood clot that forms in the veins of the extremities or lungs. Women may be at an increased risk for VTE at different points throughout their lifespan due to hormonal contraception, pregnancy, or hormone replacement therapy. So, we encourage you to read on and learn about the signs and symptoms of VTE, as well as ways you can reduce your risk.  

Nicole C. Woitowich, PhD 
Director of Science Outreach and Education  

Venous Thromboembolism Awareness 
Venous thromboembolism is a disorder which is caused by blood clots that have formed our veins, the vessels which are responsible for returning blood back to the heart. The most common place for blood clots to occur is within the veins of the calf, thigh, or pelvis, causing what is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Sometimes, blood clots from the leg can break off from the vein and travel to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism (PE) – or blockage of blood flow in the lungs which can be life threatening. Unfortunately, public awareness of DVT and PE are low, and as a result, could be considered a “silent killer” if left untreated [1,2]. Below we will examine each of these conditions in greater detail.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)  
The veins of the legs need to work against gravity to return blood back to the heart. Typically,  contractions of our leg muscles during everyday activities like walking and standing, help to “pump” blood upwards through the veins. However, when a person is immobile for a long period of time due to illness, hospitalization, or extended car or plane travel, this can cause blood to pool in the lower extremities. When blood pools and becomes stagnant it increases the likelihood of clot formation. In addition, broken bones, injuries, surgery, or any sort of trauma to leg can promote the formation of blood clots. Certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing DVT due to hereditary clotting disorders or acquired factors such as: 
  • Cancer or chemotherapy treatment 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Use of hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy 
  • Recent surgery or hospitalization 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Age
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
Signs and symptoms of a DVT can include leg pain, swelling, redness, warmth, or discoloration. Although, it is possible to have a DVT and with no symptoms at all. Thus, it is important to know your personal risk factors and discuss them with your doctor. DVTs can be treated with medications that can dissolve clots or prevent more clots from forming. Also, compression stockings can be worn to aid in blood flow to prevent additional clots. In most cases, medical treatment will help the DVT be reabsorbed by the body and symptoms will subside.  Yet, some individuals will develop persistent pain and swelling in the affected leg, known as post-thrombosis syndrome.   
Pulmonary Embolism (PE) 
The most serious complications of a DVT is the formation of PE, which occurs when a clot breaks free from the leg and becomes lodged in the lungs. This causes permanent damage to the lung, low levels of oxygen in the blood, and damage to other organs such as the heart [3]. PEs can be life threatening, as 10-30% of individuals will die within one month of diagnosis [4]. Although PEs may be asymptomatic, some signs and symptoms may include: shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and cough. You may appreciate that these symptoms can be indicative of other injuries or illness, so PEs can be difficult to diagnose. Increased awareness and education, on both the part of the patient and physician, may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment and reduced mortality for this serious condition. 
Women and VTE: 
Women may be at greater risk for developing VTE, which includes both DVT and PE, at different points throughout their lifespan. During a woman’s reproductive years, the overall risk of developing VTE is low (affecting 7 in 10,000 women per year) yet use of hormonal contraceptives may increase this risk by 4 times [4]. Hormone replacement therapy during menopause may also cause a 2-4 fold higher risk, although this may depend on the type of estrogen therapy and route of administration [4]. However, a woman is a greatest risk of developing VTE during pregnancy and the postpartum period (affecting 20 in 10,000 women per year) due to an increase in clotting factors, which are normally produced to prevent hemorrhage after birth, and pressure put on the pelvic and leg veins due to the growing uterus. 

Reducing Your Risk: 
Be sure to discuss your individual risk factors with your doctor, especially prior to any type of hospitalization or surgery. When traveling, be sure to take a break from sitting every hour so and drink plenty of fluids. For additional resources and information on VTE please consider visiting the following: 

American Heart Association 
National Institutes of Health – National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 
Northwestern Medicine 

1. Wendelboe et al., J Thromb Haemost. 2015;13(8):1365-71.
2. Cushman and Creager, JAMA. 2015; 314(18): 1913–1914.
3. MedlinePlus – Pulmonary Embolism 
4. Centers for Disease Control
5. Heit et al., J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2016; 41: 3–14.
Institute Happenings
In late April, Drs. Teresa Woodruff and Nicole Woitowich traveled to Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of women's health research with our elected officials. The pair met with the offices of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (IL), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (MD), Sen Claire McCaskill (MO), Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (IL-9th, pictured on left), Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17th), and Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13th).    
Upcoming Events 
May 2nd: Two X Chromosomes in Academia 
"Coffee and Conversation"

Come and engage in conversation and networking with other women in STEM
while enjoying light refreshments. This event is open to all NU students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty, and staff. 
3:15 PM - 4:15 PM
Cohen Commons Dining Room Room L482, Fourth Floor North, Technological Institute 
2145 Sheridan Road

May 16th: Women's Health Research Monthly Forum 
"Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Following Infectious Mononucleosis"
Dr. Ben Katz
Professor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Attending Physician  Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago 
12:00PM - 1:00PM
Prentice Women's Hospital, 250 E. Superior Street, 3rd Floor Conference Room L South
This continuing nursing education activity has been approved for 1.0 contact hour by the Ohio Nurses Association (OBN-001-91), an accredited approver of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.  Approval valid through 03/28/2019 - ONA Approval #20661, ONA-CE Assigned Approval Number.

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