Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together.
Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh. They also can occur in other parts of the body.
A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus. It can travel to an artery in the lungs and block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism, or PE.
PE is a very serious condition. It can damage the lungs and other organs in the body and cause death.
Blood clots in the thighs are more likely to break off and cause PE than blood clots in the lower legs or other parts of the body. Blood clots also can form in veins closer to the skin’s surface. However, these clots won’t break off and cause PE.
DVT in the legs and arms can easily and quickly be diagnosed by ultrasound. Pulmonary embolism is readily detected by a CT angiogram of the lungs.
Symptoms of DVT in the leg include:
- Warmth to the touch
- Worsening pain when bending the foot
- Leg cramps (especially at night and/or in the calf)
- Discoloration of skin
Treatment of DVT in the leg is individualized for each patient. Usually, anticoagulation or blood-thinning medication is prescribed to prevent further clot formation and to minimize the risk that part of the blood clot will break off and travel to the lung.
When symptoms are severe and there is a large amount of thrombus, treatment may include placement of an IVC filter. This filter prevent blood clots from traveling to the lung. Additionally, an interventional radiologist can perform thrombectomy or thrombolysis. This minimally invasive procedure removes the clot or uses medications to break it down.
The above information is not all inclusive of the risks, alternatives and benefits. It is not meant to be a substitute for informed discussion between you and your doctor, but can act as a starting point for such a discussion. There are complications possible with any medical procedure. Overall, minimally invasive procedures have a lower complication rate than open surgeries.