Jessamine County Coroner

Deep Vein Thrombosis

In my last article, I described peripheral arterial disease, which is a condition affecting the arteries, especially of the legs.  Deep vein thrombosis or DVT, is a condition affecting the veins.  While PAD takes years to develop, DVT can develop quite abruptly. The DVT is actually a blood clot that forms inside the vein, and over a period of time, becomes larger increasing the risk of complications.  These blood clots form as the result of slowed or impeded blood flow through the vessel.  Just as a clot forms over a small cut or abrasion when then blood flow is stopped, the DVT forms when we increase certain risk factors that impede the flow of blood. 

Some risk factors for DVT are:

  • Over age of 40
  • Fracture of the leg bones
  • Limited mobility
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Obesity
  • Recent surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart failure
  • People who have blood with a preponderance to clot
  • Taking estrogen or birth control pills
  • Family history of DVT
  • Cancer

Some of the symptoms of a DVT include:

  • Pain, swelling and/or soreness in the limbs, particularly the legs
  • Redness in the limb that is not present on the opposite limb
  • A warm area on the limb.
  • Mild fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat

DVT’s are a serious medical condition and should be treated immediately by your physician or health care provider.  Whenever you have symptoms that you suspect may be caused by a DVT, contact your doctor or visit the emergency room.  While the complications of a DVT vary, they can be life-threatening if left untreated.  A clot can become mobile and travel to other parts of the body.  This often results in a pulmonary embolism, which is the blockage of a major artery in the lung.  Some pulmonary embolisms or PE’s can actually go unnoticed, while others can be fatal.

Your health care provider can order specialized testing such as a venogram, MRI, and vascular ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis of DVT.

Treatment of DVT usually begins with medication which is a blood-thinner or anticoagulant, or a thrombolytic agent which dissolves the clot.  Treatment may progress to surgery or thrombectomy, or removal of the clot.  A small filter may also be inserted into the vein above the clot, to prevent it from moving toward the heart and lungs.  Compression stockings are prescribed for some patients to reduce the discomfort and retard development of future clots.

You can help prevent DVT’s by following a few simple suggestions.  By maintaining an active lifestyle, if possible, you keep the blood flowing more rapidly and help keep the vessels of the body healthier.  A healthy diet that reduces obesity, as well as stopping smoking also reduces the risk.  Keep your body well hydrated, as the blood tends to be less thick, thereby less likely to clot. Avoid sitting or standing stationary for more than an hour at a time.

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