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Heart and Vascular Care

Deep Vein Thrombosis

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside part of the body that does not travel to other parts of the body. It usually affects large veins in the calf, but may occur in large veins in the lower leg or thigh, almost always on one side of the body.

These clots usually start in areas where the ability of the blood to clot is out of balance, or where blood flow is stopped or decreased. 

Deep Vein Thrombosis: Risk Factors

While deep vein thrombosis can occur at any age, this condition is most common in people over age 60. Other risk factors may include:

  • A pacemaker catheter that has been passed through the vein in the groin
  • Bed rest
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Fractures in the pelvis or legs
  • Giving birth within the last 6 months
  • Hormone therapy
  • Obesity
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Presence of a cancerous tumor (malignancy)
  • Recent surgery (most commonly hip, knee, or female pelvic surgery)
  • Too many blood cells being made by the bone marrow, causing the blood to be thicker and slower than normal

Having pre-existing health conditions, like cancer or certain autoimmune disorders (for example, lupus), can increase your risk for developing DVT, as well.

Similarly, sitting for long periods of time when traveling can increase the likeliness of DVT developing, particularly if you have one of the risk factors listed above.

Deep Vein Thrombosis: Symptoms

People with DVT may experience the following symptoms:

  • Changes in skin color (redness)
  • Leg pain
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Warmth in the area where the blood clot formed

These clots usually form in areas where the ability of the blood to clot is out of balance or when something slows or changes blood flow in the veins.

Testing for Deep Vein Thrombosis

There are several ways to treat deep vein thrombosis. First, your doctor will perform a physical exam to look for a red, swollen or tender leg. Usually a d-dimer blood test or Doppler ultrasound exam of the legs are the first tests used to diagnose DVT.

Blood tests may be done to check if you have an increase change of blood clotting. These include:

  • Activated protein C resistance (checks for the Factor V Leiden mutation)
  • Antithrombin III levels
  • Antiphospholipid antibodies
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Genetic testing to look for mutations that make you more likely to develop blood clots, such as the prothrombin G20210A mutation
  • Lupus anticoagulant
  • Protein C and protein S levels

How is Deep Vein Thrombosis Treated at TriHealth?

First, your doctor will likely prescribe an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, to keep more clots from forming, or old ones from getting larger. Common blood thinners prescribed are:

  • Heparain – usually given intravenously, as a shot
  • Warfarin – taken by mouth

Another group of medications used to treat blood clots is called thrombolytics, or “clot busters.” These drugs are given through an IV to break up more serious DVTs or pulmonary embolisms. Because thrombolytics can cause serious bleeding, they are only administered when a blood clot is considered life-threatening.  

If medications do not work, your doctor can surgically insert a filter into a large vein in the abdomen to prevent a clot from traveling to the lungs.

Compression stockings cover the foot up to the knee and create pressure that helps prevent the blood from pooling and clotting.

TriHealth Heart and Vascular Institute
Call 513 246 2400