Conditions We Treat

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The Importance of Clotting

Blood clotting is essential to survival. Without it, the body is unable to stop bleeding after injury, illness or surgery. Even a minor injury or wound could progress to a medical emergency if clotting is inadequate. Normal clotting occurs in a series of reactions that work together to contain blood leaking out of damaged veins and arteries. When an injury happens, the body releases chemicals that constrict ruptured blood vessels, limiting blood flow to the area and reducing the size of the tears in vessel walls. The blood that has already spilled into the surrounding tissue forms a pool—called a hematoma—that presses against the vessels to further contain bleeding. These mechanical effects supplement the process by which the body manufactures its own clot to seal and begins healing the injury site.

When an injury happens, the body mobilizes cells called platelets that rush to the injury site and perform their valuable clotting function. Platelets stick to the vessel walls and to each other, forming a plug that seals the bleeding site and helps start the healing process. This complex process involves dozens of factors, proteins and enzymes. Defects in the production or performance of any of these substances can lead to clotting problems that will be discussed in subsequent sections.