Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis
What is it?
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the legs, that requires immediate medical care. It also may involve the veins of the pelvis or upper extremities. Ultrasound, MRI and CT scans can help locate blood clots that can cause DVT; blood tests and blood pressure checks can help make a diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis is confirmed by an X-ray of the veins, or contrast venography.
Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors
People with DVT typically experience swelling of the affected leg and pain or discomfort. The affected leg may also feel warm and appear redder in comparison to the other leg. If the blood clot is small, symptoms may not be present. Often, the first sign of DVT is a pulmonary embolism.
Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a blood clot breaks loose and travels through the blood stream to the lungs.
Treatment of DVT needs to begin immediately. This usually involves therapies to thin the blood to prevent blood clots from growing. Compression stockings can help reduce associated pain and swelling.
For patients who are considered high risk for pulmonary embolism, a vena cava filter may be inserted into the vena cava (the large vein that returns blood to the heart from the abdomen and legs) to help prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs. To reduce the risk of clots forming, anticoagulant therapy may be given before or after the procedure.
Vena Cava filter placement is performed in the Endovascular Suite; a vascular specialist from The Vascular Center inserts the filter through a small incision in the arm, the neck or the groin. The filter is advanced into the abdomen where it is precisely deployed under X-ray guidance.
A procedure to remove blood clots may be recommended for patients who are medically stable; it can be performed in the Endovascular Suite. Vascular specialists use clot-dissolving drugs and special catheters to remove clots through minimally-invasive procedures. These procedures reduce the swelling and skin damage that can occur years after a blood clot. Blood-thinning medications are typically required for six months or more after the procedure.