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Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Learn about approaches for treating DVT blood clots. 

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What is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) happens when your blood cells stick together in a deep vein, forming a blood clot. Anything that keeps your blood from circulating properly can cause a clot, including injury, illness, lack of movement, certain inherited conditions, and lifestyle factors. Learn more about DVT including risk factors, symptoms, and treatments.  

Understanding the procedure

Knowing the risk factors for DVT can lead to healthier choices to reduce your chance of developing a dangerous blood clot. 

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Other risk factors include:

  • A personal or family history of having DVT 
  • Older age (risk increases after age 60, but DVT can happen at any age)
  • Hormone therapy for birth control or to reduce postmenopausal symptoms
  • Pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after childbirth
  • Injury due to surgery, a broken bone, or other trauma
  • Prolonged lack of movement due to hospitalization, illness, injury, paralysis, or lengthy travel
  • Recent or ongoing treatment for cancer
  • Respiratory or heart failure
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Inherited blood disorders that make your blood thicker or more likely to clot than normal
  • Varicose veins
  • A central venous catheter
  • Obesity (body mass index, or BMI, greater than 30kg/m2)
  • Smoking

Knowing the symptoms

Know the signs of DVT and visit your doctor regularly if you are at high risk. Awareness and education are important when it comes to DVT because many patients experience few symptoms. In fact, 50 percent of people with DVT have no symptoms at all.1 Symptoms you may experience include: 

  • Leg swelling, leg pain, cramping, or heaviness. The pain often starts in your calf as a leg cramp or soreness
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg
  • A feeling of warmth in the affected leg
  • Tingling or itching in the affected leg
  • Skin ulcers

Reaching a diagnosis

To determine if you have deep vein thrombosis, your doctor will take your medical history and check for symptoms, such as swelling, redness, and skin that’s warm to the touch. Clots left untreated can lead to serious conditions like pulmonary embolism and post-thrombotic syndrome. Which is why further testing may be ordered to identify the severity, location, and proper treatment for your clot. Testing includes:

Ultrasound

The most common test for diagnosing DVT, an ultrasound, uses sound waves to detect a clot and determine whether blood is flowing properly in the affected area. Your doctor may recommend a series of ultrasounds over several days to find out if your clot is growing and to make sure a new clot hasn’t developed.

Venography

If the ultrasound doesn’t provide a clear diagnosis, your doctor may perform a venography test. He or she will inject a dye into the affected leg and take an x-ray to look for blood clots.

MRI or CT

Your doctor may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans to take pictures of your organs and veins and determine if you have a clot.

Blood tests

A D-dimer test measures a substance in your blood that is released when a blood clot breaks up or dissolves. Your doctor may also recommend additional blood tests to find out if you have an inherited blood clotting disorder that can cause DVT.

Treating DVT

Your doctor may try to treat the clot with medications like blood thinners (anticoagulants) or compression socks to move your blood through the affected area. If they feel your situation is more serious or if medications do not work, they may suggest the following procedures.

Venous Wallstent™

The Venous Wallstent self-expanding stent is a small, flexible tube specifically designed to hold open the narrowed vein that is partially or completely blocked. The device is collapsed or secured to a long tube called a catheter under a protective sheath or tube. The catheter is then used to deliver the device to the vein where it will be implanted. When the protective sheath is removed, the device expands outward to the walls of the vein. The Venous Wallstent is so flexible, it will mold itself to the vein as it expands. 

IV clot busters

A D-dimer test measures a substance in your blood that is released when a blood clot breaks up or dissolves. Your doctor may also recommend additional blood tests to find out if you have an inherited blood clotting disorder that can cause DVT.

Mechanical Thrombectomy

Mechanical thrombectomy devices are special catheters designed to help break up and physically remove all or portions of the blood clot during a minimally invasive procedure. A mechanical thrombectomy procedure can help to quickly restore blood flow, reduce medication dosage, and may help prevent damage to the valves in your vein, which can cause post-thrombotic syndrome.

In a mechanical thrombectomy procedure, your doctor may sedate you before making a small incision in your groin, wrist, or other location. The doctor will then insert a specialized tube-like catheter into your veins to access and treat the clot. Your doctor may also deliver IV clot buster medicines during the procedure.

These procedures come with risks and aren’t right for everyone. Be sure to talk to your doctor to find out if they may be right for you.

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References:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Venous Thromboembolism (Blood Clots). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/facts.html. Accessed October 13, 2015.

There are risks associated with thrombectomy treatment which include but are not limited to: abrupt closure of treated vessel, acute myocardial infarction, acute renal failure, bleeding from access site, cerebrovascular accident, death, dissection, embolization, proximal or distal, hematoma, hemolysis, hemorrhage, requiring transfusion, hypotension/hypertension, infection at the access site, pain, pancreatitis, perforation, pseudoaneurysm, reactions to contrast medium, thrombosis/occlusion, total occlusion of treated vessel, vascular aneurysm, vascular spasm, and vessel wall or valve damage.

There are risks associated with the use of IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) Filters which include but are not limited to: incorrect release or placement of the Filter, movement or migration of the Filter, formation of clots on the Filter which could result in complete blockage of blood flow through the vena cava, hematoma (bruise) or bleeding at the insertion site, infection, failure of the Filter to attach itself securely and potential migration of the Filter to the heart or lungs, perforation of the vena cava, adjacent blood vessels or organ by one or more hooks, pulmonary embolism due to introducer catheter manipulation leading to dislodgement of clot during Filter placement, air embolism during Filter insertion, insertion site thrombosis, and death due to movement of clots to the heart or lungs.

Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis.