Like so many other guys his age, Trevon Tyler, 16, played football for his high school. He was a point guard and tackle for South Lyon East High School, and during a game on October 4, suffered a knee injury that put him out of the game for the rest of the season, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. Not what he was hoping for, but not that unusual.
But the tragedy that happened next was something no one expected. After the season, the high school junior had surgery, according to the report. A little more than three weeks later, his coach reported to the press, he had to go back in and get something cleaned up. That was on a Monday. By Friday, the report says, he developed a blood clot, which led to a heart attack and to Tyler’s passing away Friday morning.
Should other otherwise-healthy knee surgery candidates worry? We checked in with cardiologist Christopher Kelly, M.D., of North Carolina Heart and Vascular in Raleigh, NC, who explained that the risk of a clot goes up after orthopedic surgery “because the leg is immobilized, leading to blood pooling and clotting, and also because the body’s clotting system becomes activated in response to the stress of the operation.” Blood clots can form in the legs and then travel to the lungs, which can be fatal.
Dr. Kelly puts this risk in perspective:
“People undergoing total replacements of their hip or knee are at highest risk, and are almost always put on a preventative blood thinner. For other surgeries, the decision on a blood thinner depends on the patient’s risk. For a healthy, young person, the risk of a blood clot after a minor hip or knee surgery is very low—less than half a percent. The risk goes up when there are other factors like obesity, infection (which could be the reason he had a second surgery), a family history of blood clots, older age, and other medical conditions.
“It sounds like this young man had a very rare but devastating complication, and I can understand why his community is stunned. Unfortunately, all procedures have risks, and even the rarest complications will happen sometimes. There may have been other information related to his risk which hasn’t been reported. If you need an orthopedic surgery, ask your surgeon about your clotting risk and how to minimize it. But don’t avoid a needed surgery, and suffer unnecessarily, if your risk is not very high or can be managed.”
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