Obesity Raises Risk of Blood Clots in Kids and Teens
Researchers have now linked the formation of blood clots in the veins to children and teens diagnosed with obesity. This new research identified obesity as a singular statistically relevant risk factor and predictor of blood clot formation in children and teens. Prior research has identified obesity as a risk factor for VTE (venous thromboembolism) in adults.
What is VTE?
This condition occurs when blood clots form in the venous system (as opposed to arteries). If the venous clot forms in a deep leg vein, it is called a DVT or deep venous thrombosis. A DVT can be quite painful. Sitting for long periods of time, especially on a plane, or being restricted to bed post-surgery also raise the risk of DVTs. If that clot then breaks off and travels through the body to the lungs, it is called a PE or pulmonary embolism. This is a life threating condition.
Researchers conducted a review of inpatients at Wake Forest Baptist’s Brenner Children’s Hospital between January 2000 and September 2012. They identified patients between the ages of two and eighteen, who had a confirmed diagnosis of VTE. Of these cases, 33 patients or 37% were obese. Many of them also had other risk factors for VTE in addition to obesity.
The researchers matched control subjects by age, gender and the presence of a central venous catheter. They also collected data on height, weight, and risk factors. Among these patients 88 were identified, and a statistically significant association between having a VTE and having an increased BMI (body mass index) was found.
A similar study in 2014 also established a correlation between having obesity and VTE among a group of hospitalized children.
What is the precise mechanism at play?
It’s not clear if just being obese, or the obesity interacting with other mechanisms results in the increased VTE risk. And though the association between VTE and obesity is moderate, it’s clear that obesity can interact with certain environmental or genetic risk factors to heighten the risk of VTE in kids and teens. We already know this risk exists in the adult population.
What has been confirmed is that the risk of VTE has been rising dramatically in the child and teen communities over the last 20 years. Obesity has also been increasing at alarming rates in these groups over the last two decades as well.
Research has previously identified that the impact of excess fat in the body is overall increased levels of inflammation. Excess fat can also limit venous circulation, and in the presence of inflammation it’s reasonable to assume that clots will occur. Weight loss can reduce certain body coagulation factors and lower the risk of clots.
VTE can happen to anyone
NBA star Chris Bosh may have to end his season early because of nagging VTE problems. This phenomenon has occurred in other high level athletes too. VTE is not always caused by excess weight.
Another reason that should inspire weight loss
If your child is overweight or obese, then a lifestyle intervention is crucial to helping avert risk factors for a number of diseases, including VTE. The approach to some children may be to limit weight gain so that height catches up with weight. A child diagnosed with obesity may have to be on restricted calories and increased activity in order to actually lose weight in the short term, and then a growth spurt can further help to nudge the BMI lower. Working with your pediatrician and a team that includes a dietician or nutritionist can help.