Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs. This kind of clot is a very serious condition. It can cause permanent damage to the leg, as well as cause a pulmonary embolism, which is a life-threatening condition. A clot can form when circulation in the leg slows down because of illness, injury, or inactivity, causing blood to pool in the vein.
Risk Factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Previous DVT, or a family history of DVT.
- Immobility, such as bed rest of sitting for long periods of time. Those who frequently travel on long airline flights or in the car can find themselves at risk for DVT because of the long periods of sitting.
- Recent surgery.
- Over the age of 40.
- Hormone therapy or oral contraceptives.
- Current or recent pregnancy.
- Previous or current cancer.
- Limb trauma and/or orthopedic procedures.
- Blood coagulation abnormalities.
- Obesity (slows down the flow of blood).
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Discoloration in the leg.
- Calf or leg pain or tenderness.
- Leg swelling.
- Area of warm skin.
- More visible surface veins in the leg.
- Leg fatigue.
Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Blood Thinners: If you are diagnosed with DVT, you will likely receive a prescription for a blood thinner to keep the clot from growing or breaking off to form a pulmonary embolism. Blood thinners will not actively dissolve the existing clot, but they will prevent new clots from forming. If the clot isn’t removed, post-thrombotic syndrome (damage to the leg) may occur.
- Thrombolysis: Catheter-directed thrombolysis is a procedure that breaks up the DVT clot to restore blood flow in the vein and prevent valve damage. In this treatment, Dr. Quickert inserts a catheter into a leg vein and threads it into the vein with the clot using imaging guidance. He places the tip of the catheter into clot and injects a drug that breaks up the clot directly into it. If a study of the vein reveals a narrowing in the vein that may pose a risk for another DVT clot, he may recommend treating the narrowed area with a balloon dilatation or stent.
- IVC Filter: For certain clients, Dr. Quickert may recommend inserting an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter into the vena cava, which is the main vein returning blood to the heart from the lower body. This filter allows the blood to pass through, but screens out larger pieces of a clot that may break off, keeping them away from the heart and lungs.
Complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Pulmonary Embolism: If a DVT clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream, it can become trapped in the lung, blocking off oxygen supply and causing heart failure. Pulmonary embolism is very serious – the condition is fatal to about 30 percent of the people who have one. Because the majority of pulmonary embolisms are caused by DVT, diagnosis and treatment for deep vein thrombosis is crucial.
- Post-Thrombotic Syndrome: While the body will eventually dissolve a blood clot deep in the leg, the vein often suffers irreversible damage before that happens. The clot can damage the valves, which results in pooling of the blood in the leg, chronic leg pain, fatigue, swelling, and potentially severe skin ulcers. Removal of the clot through thrombolysis or thrombectomy (surgical removal of the clot) will help prevent this damage and painful symptoms.
Conveniently located to Loveland, Johnstown, and Fort Collins and serving Haxtun and Bridgeport communities, Premier Vein & Pain Center’s leading experts in vein disease and deep vein thrombosis are dedicated to helping you identify and manage DVT. Contact us today to schedule a Free Vein Screening.