When people think of blood clots, images of heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary emboli undoubtedly come to mind. However, blood clots can form anywhere that blood flows in the body. In fact, blood clots form to stop the bleeding from a scraped knee or cut finger. One commonly overlooked blood clot is deep vein thrombosis.
Definition of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that has formed in one of the deeper veins in the body, typically the leg. Although, deep veins are also located in the pelvis and arms as well.
Anatomy of DVT
The venous system of the leg has superficial and deep components. The human body is set up so that the larger veins are farther away from the surface and are protected against injury. The superficial veins feed blood back into the deep veins to be carried to the heart. While both systems can form clots, clots or thrombosis of the deep system is more likely to cause pulmonary emboli.
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis
People who have spent a significant amount of time stationary, such as a long plane flight or car ride, are at an increased risk for forming a deep vein thrombosis. Those with a history of blood clotting disorders are also at an increased risk. People who are overweight also have a propensity for developing blood clots as well. Patients undergoing surgery, who are pregnant, or after a traumatic accident is also at risk for developing deep vein thrombosis.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Common symptoms include:
- Warmth in the area
- Redness around the affected area
- Shortness of breath (if the deep vein thrombosis travels and becomes a pulmonary embolus)
If these symptoms are combined with the risk factors described above, the chances of having a deep vein thrombosis rise significantly.
Diagnosis of DVT
Physical exam findings consistent with a DVT include a warm extremity, swollen extremity, and pain with calf extension. An ultrasound is diagnostic and will help show if the blood clot is acute or chronic.
Prevention of DVT
DVT prevention includes ambulating during stationary periods of time, such as on planes and taking frequent breaks during long episodes of car travel. Patients should maintain a healthy body weight and take medications as prescribed.
Am I at Risk for a DVT?
Risk factors for a DVT include a previous history or DVT, recent surgery, blood clotting disorders, obesity, and lack of physical movement. Patients undergoing surgery or planning extensive travel should consult with a physician to determine appropriate measures to prevent DVT.
Treatment of a Deep Vein Thrombosis
Initial treatment of deep vein thrombosis is anticoagulation. Patients with severe symptoms may benefit from endovascular therapy. Endovascular options use wires, catheters, and balloons to break up the clot and infuse clot-busting medication. Very rarely open surgery is required.
To learn more about treatment procedures for this condition please visit the following:
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