Deep vein thrombosis is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people but thankfully is preventable. This is a condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein of the body, usually the thigh, leg, and rarely the arm. The worst complication is that the blood clot can break off and travel inside the vein to the lung and ventilation, leading to death. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE).
There are several risk factors responsible for deep venous thrombosis. These can be divided into:
- Injury to the blood vessel — for example, by fractures, severe muscle injury, and major surgery of the hip, pelvis or abdomen, or legs
- Slow movement of the blood within the vein: Immobility especially after surgery or fracture or while recovering from a medical condition or stroke
- Increased likelihood of clotting of the blood within the vein — for example, certain birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy and for several months after giving birth, and the absence of certain inherited factors in the blood
There are many other conditions predisposed to developing deep venous thrombosis, such cancer and its treatment, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, a previous episode of deep venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism or a family history of DVT or PE, dehydration, family history of DVT or PE, obesity, and a catheter in a vein.
Symptoms of DVT
Pain and a feeling of tightness are symptoms of DVT, as well as swelling associated with that particular limb that is not relieved by normal painkillers.
A diagnosis is usually made with the help of a special kind of ultrasound (duplex) examination.
The main treatment is an anticoagulant, which is a medicine taken orally or even in an injectable form. Medical-grade compression stockings should be worn to prevent incidence of complications related to the deep venous thrombosis. Over several months, the blood clot is dissolved by the enzymes present in the blood within the body.
Newer modalities of treatment, including clot-busting medications, mechanical suction, catheter-directed thrombolysis, and thrombectomy are available now. I’ll discuss those treatments in next month’s column.
BIO: Dr. Aparajita is a fellowship-trained vascular and endovascular surgeon. She is a co-author of 20-plus journal articles and publications and was recently nominated for an Inspiration Award by the American Medical Association.
This column is sponsored by KSC Cardiology, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFHN or its advertisers.