Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot (thrombus) develops in one or more of your body's deep veins, generally in the legs. Deep vein thrombosis can cause pain or swell in the legs, but it can also occur without symptoms. You can get DVT if you have certain medical conditions that affect the way your blood clots. After you don't move for a long period, such as after surgery or an accident, when travelling a long distance, or when you're on bed rest, a blood clot might form in your legs.
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What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT, also called vein thrombosis) is a blood clot that develops in a deep vein in the body. Blood flow via the vein might be partially or fully blocked by a clot. Most DVTs occur in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the arm, brain, intestines, liver, or kidneys.
Deep vein thrombosis is a dangerous condition in which blood clots in the veins dislodge, travel through the circulation, and become lodged in the lungs, obstructing blood flow (pulmonary embolism). However, pulmonary embolism can occur without evidence of DVT. When DVT and pulmonary embolism occur together, it is called venous thromboembolism (VTE).
Symptoms of DVT
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of DVT only occur in about half of the people with this condition.
Common symptoms of DVT include:
Swelling in your foot, ankle, or leg, usually on one side
Painful cramps in the affected leg that usually start in the calf
Severe, unexplained pain in the foot and ankle.
An area of skin that feels warmer than the skin of the surrounding areas.
People with a DVT in the upper limbs or a blood clot in the arm may not have symptoms.
If so, common symptoms include:
Swelling in the arm or hand
Skin color tinged blue or darker
Pain that moves from the arm to the forearm.
Weakness in the hand
People may not realize they have DVT until they have undergone emergency treatment for a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). A pulmonary embolism can occur when a DVT clot has moved from the arm or leg to the lung. When an artery in the lung becomes blocked, it is a life-threatening condition and requires emergency care.
What Causes DVT?
DVT is caused by a blood clot. The clot blocks a vein, preventing blood from circulating properly in your body. Clotting can occur for several reasons. These include:
Injury: Damage to the wall of a blood vessel can narrow or block blood flow. As a result, a blood clot can form.
Surgery: During surgery, blood arteries can be injured, which can result in the formation of a blood clot. Bed rest with little or no movement after surgery can also increase your risk of developing a blood clot.
Reduced mobility or inactivity: When you sit frequently, blood can pool in your legs, especially your lower parts. If you are unable to move for long periods, the blood flow to your legs may decrease. This can cause a clot to form.
Certain medications: Some medicines increase the chances that your blood will form a clot.
How is DVT Diagnosed?
A DVT comprises a physical examination as well as a study of your medical history. You will also need tests. The following tests are commonly used to detect a DVT:
A Duplex venous ultrasound. This is the most common test used to diagnose DVT. It displays the blood flow in the veins as well as any blood clots. While scanning your arm or leg, an ultrasound technician will apply pressure. If the pressure does not cause the vein to compress, it could mean that there is a blood clot.
Venography. This test uses x-rays to show your deep veins. A special dye (contrast material) is injected into the veins so that X-rays show the veins and blood clots. Any blockage in blood flow can also be seen. A venogram may be used if the results of the duplex ultrasound are unclear.
Other tests you may have include:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Magnetic Resonance Venography (MRV): MRI shows images of organs and structures within the body, and MRV shows images of blood vessels in the body. In many cases, MRI and MRV can provide more information than an X-ray.
Computed Tomography (CT) is a type of x-ray that shows structures inside the body. A CT scan can be used to find a DVT in the abdomen or pelvis, as well as blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolism).
DVT is a serious medical condition. If you suspect you're having DVT symptoms, call your doctor or go to the local emergency hospital straight once. A healthcare professional can check your symptoms.
DVT treatments focus on preventing the clot from growing. Also, treatment can help prevent a pulmonary embolism and reduce the risk of more clots.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to thin your blood, such as:
Anticoagulants make it difficult for your blood to clot. They also keep existing clots as small as possible and decrease the chance that you will develop more clots.
If blood thinners don't work or if the DVT is severe, your doctor may use thrombolytic drugs. People with DVT in the upper extremities can also benefit from this drug.
Thrombolytic drugs work by breaking up clots. You will receive them intravenously (through a vein).
If you are at high risk for deep vein thrombosis, wearing compression stockings can prevent swelling and reduce the chance of developing clots.
Compression stockings come just below the knee or just above the knee. Your doctor may recommend that you use them every day
If you cannot take blood thinners, you may need to place a filter inside the large abdominal vein called the vena cava. By preventing clots from entering your lungs, this therapy helps to avoid pulmonary embolisms.
Filters have risks. If they are left on for a long time, they can increase the risk of DVT. Filters should be used for a short period until the risk of thromboembolism is reduced and anticoagulants can be used
If you have a DVT clot in your arm or leg, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it. This is generally recommended for very large blood clots or clots that cause serious problems, such as tissue damage.
Your surgeon will make an incision in a blood artery during a surgical thrombectomy, or operation to remove a blood clot. They will locate and remove the clot. Then they will repair the blood vessels and tissue.
In some cases, they can use a small inflatable balloon to keep the blood vessel open while they remove the clot. When the clot is discovered and removed, the balloon is also removed.
Surgery is not without risks, so many doctors will only use this treatment in severe cases. The risks include:
Damage to blood vessels
Can a DVT Be Prevented?
After having a DVT, you will need to reduce your risk of future clots by:
Take your medications exactly as your doctor tells you.
Keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor and the lab. These are needed to see how well your treatment is working.
If you've never had a DVT, but are at higher risk of developing it, make sure you:
Exercise your lower leg muscles if you need to sit for a long time. Get up and walk at least every half hour if you are on a long flight. Or get out of the car every hour if you're on a long road trip.
Get out of bed and move around as soon as possible after getting sick or having surgery. The sooner you move, the less chance you have of developing a clot.
Take medicine or wear compression stockings after surgery (if prescribed by your doctor) to reduce the risk of a clot.
Follow up with your doctor as directed and follow your doctor's advice to reduce the risk of a clot.
Senior Consultant Vascular & Endovascular Surgeon, Foot Care Specialist MBBS,MS(General Surgery),DNB(Vascular Surgery) Experience: 6+ Years Hyderabad : Get Directions
Frequently Asked Questions:
Swelling in the affected leg In rare cases, there is swelling in both legs.
Leg pain Pain often begins in the calf and can feel like cramps or pain.
Red or discoloured skin on the leg.
Feeling of heat in the affected leg.
DVT can be very serious because blood clots in the veins can dislodge, travel through the bloodstream, and get stuck in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.
Dehydration, a condition in which your body does not have enough fluids. This condition causes the blood vessels to narrow and the blood to thicken, which increases the risk of blood clots.