Deep Vein Thrombosis - DVT

A DVT is a life-threatening event. Blood clots form in a deep vein inside a muscle, most commonly occurring in the legs but can develop in your arms, chest or other areas. The body has two systems of veins, superficial and deep. The superficial system is made up of veins that are close to the skin. The two systems connect by small communicating veins. Deep veins lead to the vena cava; the body's largest vein, it runs directly to your heart. A blood clot or DVT can block the flow of blood or break off and lodge in a blood vessel in your lungs, heart or other area. The clot can cause severe organ damage and even death within hours. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot that has lodged in an artery in the lungs.
Symptoms depend on the size and location of the DVT. If you have any of these symptoms especially if they are sudden in onset, call your doctor right away.
  • swelling in the affected extremity
  • tenderness or pain that may worsen with standing or walking
  • redness and warmth
  • changes in skin color blue or red
In some cases, there are no symptoms associated with having a DVT.
Slow or sluggish blood flow in your leg veins increases your risk for DVT. When blood pools in your veins, clots are more likely to form. This poor blood flow can occur with decreased mobility for long periods. Some specific causes of DVT include:
  • Major surgery on your hip, knee, leg, calf, abdomen, or chest
  • Prolonged travel
  • Broken bone
  • Inherited blood clotting abnormalities
  • Cancer
You have a greater chance of developing DVT if you are obese, pregnant, smoke, nursing or taking birth control pills; have a history of heart attack, stroke or congestive heart failure.
Diagnosis of DVT includes physical exam and ultrasound. Ultrasound (a sound wave study used to see the vein though the skin) is very accurate in the diagnosis of DVT.
Depending on your condition, you may be treated at home or in the hospital. You will be given anticoagulants (blood thinners). These medications control your bloods ability to clot. Surgical intervention (IVC Filter), elevating your extremity and wearing compression stockings may be indicated.