Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that involves blood clot formation and inflammation in the veins. In almost all cases, these conditions occur in the legs; however, they can occur in the arms or in other parts of the body.
When Deep Vein Thrombosis blocks blood flow in a large leg vein, the calf swells and may be painful. The ankle, foot, or thigh may also swell, depending on which veins are involved. The swelling occurs because of fluid accumulation due to blocked veins or damaged valves. The edema can extend up the leg if the DVT is high enough. The swelling lessens at night or when the leg is elevated, providing for better venous flow. Symptoms of DVT include:
- Changes in skin color (redness) in one leg
- Increased warmth in one leg
- Leg tenderness in one leg
- Thrombolysis - the breakdown of blood clots by the use of specialized drugs.
Catheter-directed thrombolysis essentially "busts" or dissolves the clot, restoring blood flow within the vein, and potentially preserves valve function. To perform the procedure, a catheter is inserted into a leg vein and is threaded into the vein containing the clot, using imaging guidance. The catheter is placed into the clot and a "clot busting" drug is infused directly into the thrombus (clot). Another type of catheter helps to break up and suck the clot out of the vein. Any narrowing in the vein that might lead to future clot formation can be treated with a balloon angioplasty or stent placement.
We offer the very best methods and latest technology to eliminate deep vein thrombosis. We help patients determine which treatment option is most appropriate for their specific medical needs. It is critically important that DVTs be treated rapidly to prevent life threatening and lifestyle altering complications.
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) mainly affects the large veins in the lower leg and thigh. The clot can block blood flow. If the clot breaks off and moves through the bloodstream, it can get stuck in the brain, lungs, heart, or other area, leading to severe damage.
Risks for DVT include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Giving birth within the last 6 months
- Medications such as estrogen and birth control pills
- Recent surgery (especially hip, knee, or female reproductive organ surgery)
- Sitting for a long time, such as on a long plane or car trip
You're also more likely to develop DVT if you have any of the following conditions:
- Blood that is more likely to clot (hypercoagulability)
- Overproduction of red blood cells in bone marrow (polycythemia vera) or related conditions
DVTs are most common in adults over age 60, but can occur at any age.
Tests & diagnosis
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. The exam may show a red, swollen, or tender leg. The diagnosis of DVT can be made easily in our Vascular Laborartory by where we perform Duplex sonograms. These studies use sound waves that bounce off of the blood vessels to accurately determine whether or not a clot is present.
Many DVTs disappear without a problem, but they can return. Some people may have long-term pain and swelling in the leg known as post-phlebitic syndrome. Wearing tight (compression) stockings during and after the DVT may help prevent this problem.
- Doctors may prescribe blood thinners to help prevent DVT in people at high risk, or those who are undergoing high-risk surgery.
- Sometimes patients in the hospital wear special soft boots that automatically (and gently) squeeze the calves periodically. This is called intermittent pneumatic compression. It helps keep blood moving and prevents blood clotting.
- Moving your legs often during long plane trips, car trips, and other situations in which you are sitting or lying down for long periods of time can also help prevent DVT.
There is significant risk in not treating a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The greatest danger is that part of the blood clot may break off, travel upwards along the veins, and then get lodged in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can be very serious and even fatal. DVT can also result in permanent vein damage, leading to a condition referred to as post-phlebitic syndrome, which may cause varicose veins as well as chronic swelling, discoloration and pain.
When to contact a doctor
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of DVT.
Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have Deep Vein Thrombosis AND you develop chest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing blood, fainting, loss of consciousness, or other severe symptoms.
To schedule a consultation or to receive more information, please contact us.