What is deep vein thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops in a vein deep in the body. Deep veins are found within groups of muscles. The veins close to the skin are called superficial veins.
While these clots most often develop in the lower legs or thighs, they may appear in the upper body, such as the arms or other locations in the body. Deep vein thrombosis is a risk for any major surgery, but patients who have surgery of the legs or hips are at higher risk.
Deep vein thrombosis can pose a serious threat to health. Pieces of a clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal soon after it occurs. Deep vein thrombosis can also block blood flow in the veins, causing the blood to pool. This can cause swelling, pain, and permanent damage to the leg called post-thrombotic syndrome.
What causes deep vein thrombosis?
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of deep vein thrombosis:
- surgery, particularly surgery of the hip or leg, or abdominal surgery
- a long period of bed rest or sitting for a long time (e.g., on an airplane or in a car)
- birth control pills or hormones taken for symptoms of menopause
- certain diseases and conditions, such as:
- varicose veins
- chronic atrial fibrillation
- inflammatory bowel disease
- lupus erythematosus, a disease of the immune system
- heart failure
- heart attack
- arterial disease
- spinal cord injury and resulting paralysis
- previous blood clot (thrombosis)
- intensive care treatment involving placement of a central venous catheter
- persons with cancer receiving chemotherapy
Treatment for deep vein thrombosis:
Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your signs and symptoms
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment is to prevent the clot from growing, to ensure that it does not break off and travel through the veins to the lungs, and to help reduce the possibility of another blood clot forming.