Deep Vein Thrombosis (Dvt)

1 What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one more more veins in your body.

Deep leg veins are the most affected. Most cases are characterized by pain and swelling, but some occur without any symptoms and remain unnoticed.

Deep vein thrombosis is a dangerous condition due to to the tendency of blood clots to break away and get stuck in your lungs, blocking blood flow. This life-threatening condition is called lung embolism.

Various factors cause this condition including other medical reasons, not moving for a long time, post-surgical care etc.

2 Symptoms

In most cases deep vein thrombosis (DVT) signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling – in mot cases legs are affected. Either one or both legs may be affected and swollen.
  • Pain in the affected leg – cramping and soreness in your.

It is important to note that in many cases this condition comes without any symptoms.

The most serious complication is pulmonary embolism. This life-threatening condition is marked by a sudden onset of shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, chest discomfort, coughing blood.

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention urgently!

3 Causes

Any condition that prevents normal blood clotting or prevents normal blood circulation can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), especially in the deep veins of the legs.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Your doctor is likely to use some of the following diagnostic procedures for deep vein thrombosis (DVT):

  • Ultrasound - used to visualize the clot.
  • Blood test – elevated D dimer is expected to be found in this condition.
  • Venography – a contrast substance is injected in a large vein of the foot, and an X-ray is used to follow the spreading of the contrast through your deep veins.
  • CT or NMR – non-invasive visualization of the clot.

Deep vein thrombosis is considered a medical emergency.

Do not forget to mention to your doctor: all the symptoms you are experiencing, when did they start, when do they improve or worsen, what medication you are taking, other medical conditions that you have, surgeries, trauma, family history of thrombosis etc.

5 Treatment

The aim of the treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is prevention of further growth of the clot and its breaking, which can lead to pulmonary embolism. After that, the goal becomes reducing your chances of deep vein thrombosis happening again.

Treatment options include:

  • Blood thinners – also known as anticoagulants, are drugs which are used for prevention of blood clotting. This treatment usually starts with a few days of infusions with heparin and continues with injections of enoxaparin, dalteparin or fondaparinux. Anticoagulants in pill form such as warfarin can be used too. You may expect to take blood thinners for at least three months, and maybe longer. It is crucial to take your medications as instructed by the doctor, in order to prevent possible serious complications. You may also need to take regular blood-clotting tests.
  • Clotbusters (thrombolytics) - these medications are used in more serious cases of DVT. These drugs are generally used in life- threatening situations and therefore are given only in hospital environment. These drugs, called tissue plasminogen activators (TPA), are given through an IV line to break up blood clots or may be given through a catheter placed directly into the clot.
  • Filters – If, for any reason, you can't take medicines to thin your blood, a filter may be inserted into a large vein. The most used vein is the vena cava, the biggest vein in the abdomen. The general idea behind these filters is to prevent blood clots traveling to your lungs and causing lung embolism.
  • Compression stockings –these are used for prevention of thrombosis-associated swelling . These are worn on your legs form your feet to the knees, where they apply pressure on your legs and veins. Compression stockings should be worn daily, for at least two years.

6 Prevention

To prevent deep vein thrombosis, do the following:

  • Take your medications – especially after surgery. Also, some medications should be discontinued prior to the surgery (aspirin) .
  • Avoid sitting and sedentary way of life – it is crucial to get moving as soon as possible after the surgery. If your job requires sitting long-hours, make pauses every hour to take a short walk or exercise your legs.
  • Lifestyle changes – exercise more, quit smoking, maintain optimal weight.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

When you start treatment for DVT you are expected to :

  • Use your medication as directed by the doctor.
  • Attend regular follow-ups with your doctor.
  • Watch for signs of excessive bleeding which is a common side effect. Avoid activities that can lead to injuries and bleeding.
  • If you are using Warfarin, you will have to do blood tests in order to check your blood clotting, control vitamin K intake and modify your diet.
  • Be active – move more.
  • If recommended, wear compression stockings.

8 Risks and Complications

Risk factors for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) include:

  • Blood coagulation disorders.
  • Pregnancy – increases pressure in in the veins of pelvis and legs.
  • Birth-control pills and hormonal therapy.
  • Surgery – mainly orthopedic procedures.
  • Extended lying in bed ( especially in hospitalization). It causes the inactivity of skeletal muscle pump, which enables vein blood to circulate upwards.
  • Smoking.
  • Age – being over the age of 60.

Other relevant factors include: cancer, heart failure, IBD etc.

The most serious complication is pulmonary embolism. This happens when a blood clot blocks your lung circulation. In most cases, this blood clot derives from legs or lower abdomen.