A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the large veins of the arms or legs. These clots can ‘throw’ to the brain or heart, potentially causing a life threatening event like a stroke.
Causes of DVT
The causes of DVT include:
- Trauma to the vein's inner lining. These may include surgery, serious injury, inflammation, or an immune response.
- Blood flow is sluggish or slow. This can be caused by lack of movement for long periods of time; like sitting on an airplane for many hours.
- Having blood that is thicker than normal. There are genetic conditions that increase blood's tendency to clot.
Symptoms of DVT
- Leg pain or tenderness
- Swelling of only one leg
- Increased warmth of one leg
- Changes in skin color of one leg, redness
- Shortness of breath or chest pain if the clot embolizes
Risk Factors of DVT
- A history of DVT
- Inherited blood disorders
- Use of birth control pills
- Pregnancy and the first 6 weeks after giving birth
- Recent or ongoing treatment for cancer
What to Expect at Your Medical Exam
Your vascular surgeon will try to determine if you are suffering from DVT as well as the best method of treatment.
- Your vascular surgeon will ask you questions about your:
- general health
- medical history
- Your vascular surgeon will conduct a physical examination. You will be asked about family and medical history. Your vascular surgeon will ask you to describe your symptoms; how often they occur, how often and their location.
- Your vascular surgeon will listen for sounds of blood flow in your arteries. Your blood pressure will be taken.
- After the history and exam, if your vascular surgeon suspects you have DVT, he or she may order several diagnostic tests.
Several tests are used to diagnose a DVT. Usually, more than one test is done before a definitive diagnosis can be made. These tests may include:
- Duplex Ultrasound
- Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
- Venography. In this test, an x-ray is taken of the legs after contrast dye has been injected. By watching the flow of this dye through the veins, doctors can diagnose DVT.
Treatment of DVT
Treatment options for DVT may include:
- Anticoagulation medication with blood thinners
- Thrombolytic therapy with clot dissolving medications
- Inferior Vena Cava filter placement if blood thinners are not tolerated