Deep Vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins. This typically occurs in the legs, but can occur in the arms as well. The greatest risk of these blood clots is that they can break off and travel to the lungs. This condition is known as pulmonary embolism (PE) and can be instantly fatal. In fact, almost 200,000 people die per year from some complication of DVT. Other complications from DVT include development of leg sores that result from the destruction of the leg vein valves by the clot itself.
[break][break]DVT may be associated with the following factors: cancer, surgery, leg fractures, pregnancy and any situation with immobility. In fact, recent press has been made about the so-called “economy class syndrome”, a condition in which people on long flights have developed DVT from prolonged periods of time sitting. Other people are at an increased risk for forming clots in general because of their genetic make-up.
[break][break]The symptoms that may occur include leg swelling, sudden pain in the calf or thigh, shortness of breath (representing PE), or no symptoms. It is usually diagnosed with a non-invasive study called a duplex ultrasound.
[break][break]Depending on where the DVT is located the treatment usually involves the use of some type of blood thinner to prevent the expansion of the DVT and to give the body a chance to break the DVT up. Under certain circumstances treatment may include the direct infusion of the clot with medications that dissolve the clot. Occasionally, the clot can’t be treated directly, but “treatment” involves placing a filter in a position that limits the risk of PE from the DVT.
[break][break]If you have new leg swelling, sudden leg pain or any concerns about having a DVT, you should contact your physician immediately to determine if an ultrasound would be warranted to detect a possible DVT.