Woman’s arm swelled to ‘twice the size’ due to blood clot

British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

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A certain amount of clotting in the blood is necessary as it prevents excessive bleeding when you get a cut. However, blood clots that don’t naturally dissolve can become dangerous. This is because they can travel to vital organs such as the brain and lungs, leading to medical emergencies.

In some cases blood clots are caused by long periods of inactivity, such as being bed bound in hospital for a while.

You are also more at risk if you are overweight, smoke or have just given birth.

However, one patient suffered venous subclavian thrombosis – a blood clot in a vein under her collarbone – that was “likely” caused by a shoulder instability.

In a case study, presented by Manchester University in the US, it described how the volleyball player was diagnosed.

It said: “A female volleyball player woke up in the morning and noticed that her right arm was swollen to twice the size of her left arm.

“The individual stated that there was no mechanism of injury that could have caused the swelling.

“The athlete had a previous history of shoulder instability but never anything like the symptoms she was presented with.

“The athlete presented to the athletic training room and was referred to the emergency room.”

In hospital further symptoms were revealed.

“The athlete presented to the emergency room with numbness and tingling on the right side from her clavicle (collarbone) all the way down her arm,” the case study said.

“She had point tenderness over the shoulder with moderate swelling. The athlete had full range of motion of her neck.

“There was grinding in her right shoulder but was pain free.

“She had normal lymph nodes in her axilla and her pulse was within normal limits. There was a venous engorgement over the anterior aspect of her right shoulder.”

It was hypothesised that the venous subclavian thrombosis was caused by shoulder issues and exacerbated by exercise.

The study said: “Final diagnosis was a venous subclavian thrombosis more than likely secondary to playing volleyball and being an overhead hitter.

“Her history of shoulder instability may have initiated and/or added pressure to the area creating the thrombosis clot.”

Treatment consisted of surgery to remove her first rib on the right side of her body.

This released pressure on the subclavian vein, “allowing for normal blood flow”.

Other symptoms of blood clots include:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm
  • Sudden breathlessness, sharp chest pain (may be worse when you breathe in) and a cough or coughing up blood.

The NHS advises seeking medical help immediately if you think you have one.

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