Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the large veins of the arms or legs. These clots can travel through the bloodstream to the brain or heart, potentially causing a life-threatening event, such as a stroke.
Causes of DVT
The causes of DVT include:
- Trauma to the vein's inner lining. These may include surgery, serious injury, inflammation or an immune response
- Blood flow is sluggish or slow. This can be caused by lack of movement for long periods of time, such as sitting on an airplane or in a car for many hours, or after surgery
- Having blood that is thicker than normal. There are genetic conditions that increase blood's tendency to clot
Symptoms of DVT
- Swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg
- Pain or tenderness in the leg
- Increased warmth in the area of the leg that is swollen or in pain
- Shortness of breath or chest pain if the clot travels to the lungs
Risk Factors for DVT
- A history of a previous DVT
- Inherited blood disorders
- Use of birth control pills
- Pregnancy and the first six weeks after giving birth
- Recent or ongoing treatment for cancer
- Older age
- Varicose veins
What to Expect at Your Medical Exam
Your vascular surgeon will try to determine if you are suffering from DVT, as well as the best method of treatment.
- Your vascular surgeon will ask you questions about your general health, medical history and symptoms. Your vascular surgeon will ask you to describe your symptoms, including how often they occur and their location.
- Your vascular surgeon will conduct a physical examination.
- After the history and exam, if your vascular surgeon suspects you have DVT, he or she may order one or more diagnostic tests.
Diagnostic Tests for DVT
Several tests may be used to diagnose a DVT. The most commonly performed test is a Duplex Ultrasound, which is noninvasive and painless. Other tests may include:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR)
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan
Treatment of DVT
Because of its life-threatening nature, it is imperative to quickly diagnose and treat acute DVT. The most common and effective treatment is anticoagulation (thinning of the blood).
The duration of anticoagulation depends on many factors, and treatment may last for three to six months or longer. In more advanced cases, more aggressive treatment may be used with thrombolytic therapy, which actually can dissolve the clot. Your vascular surgeon will decide which option is best for you.
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