deep vein thrombosis

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Related to deep vein thrombosis: pulmonary embolism

Deep vein thrombosis



Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a major vein that usually develops in the legs and/or pelvis.


Deep vein thrombosis is a common but difficult to detect illness that can be fatal if not treated effectively. The disorder is estimated to affect 80 people per 100,000 population annually, but some experts feel this is an underestimate of the disorder because the condition often remains undetected and resolves on its on without complications. About 600,000 people are hospitalized in the United States for DVT each year. If left untreated, DVT can cause pulmonary emboli. This is a potentially fatal complication in which blood clots break off, travel through the circulatory system, and become lodged in and block an artery going to the lungs. Each year about 200,000 people die of pulmonary emboli caused by DVT. Deep vein thrombosis is also called venous thromboembolism, thrombophlebitis or phlebothrombosis.
Deep vein thrombosis is a major complication in patients who have had orthopedic surgery or pelvic, abdominal, or thoracic surgery. Patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses (including congestive heart failure), as well as those who have experienced a recent heart attack (myocardial infarction), are also at high risk for developing DVT. Deep vein thrombosis can be chronic, with recurrent episodes.

Causes and symptoms

Deep vein thrombosis is caused by blood clots in blood vessels that form in veins where blood flow is sluggish or has been disturbed, in pockets in the deep veins of the calf, or in veins that have been traumatized. Symptoms include swelling and tenderness, pain in the calf or thigh, and possibly warmth. Fewer than half of all people with the condition experience symptoms, and symptoms tend to be nonspecific (e.g., leg pain may be caused by many other conditions). Some individuals and families have underlying clotting tendencies that can be tested for.


Deep vein thrombosis can be detected through venography and radionuclide venography, Doppler ultrasonography, and impedance plethysmography. Venography is the most accurate test, but it is not used much because it is often painful, expensive, exposes the patient to radiation, and can cause allergic reactions and complications. Venography identifies the location, extent, and degree of attachment of the blood clots and enables the condition of the deep leg veins to be assessed. A contrast solution is injected into a foot vein through a catheter. The physician observes the movement of the solution through the vein with a fluoroscope while a series of x rays are taken. Venography takes 30-45 minutes and can be done in a physician's office, a laboratory, or a hospital. Radionuclide venography, in which a radioactive isotope is injected, is occasionally used, especially if a patient has had an allergic reaction to contrast solutions.
Doppler ultrasonography usually is the preferred procedure for detecting deep vein thrombosis. This technique uses sound waves to measure blood flow through leg veins and arteries. A blood pressure cuff is wrapped around the patient's ankle and a transducer with gel on it is placed over pulse points of the foot and lower leg. High-frequency sound waves bounce off the soft tissue, and the echoes are converted into images on a monitor. This procedure is very accurate in detecting clots above the knee that can become pulmonary embolisms. Usually performed in a physician's office or hospital outpatient diagnostic center, Doppler ultrasound takes about 30-45 minutes.
Impedance plethysmography is a noninvasive way to record changes in blood volume and vessel resistance. A blood pressure cuff is wrapped around the leg above the knee, four electrodes are placed near the knee and the ankle, and the cuff is inflated to compress the veins and reduce blood flow. The efficiency with which the veins return to normal is then measured. Performed in a physician's office, impedance plethysmography takes about 15 minutes.


Deep vein thrombosis can be treated with drug therapy, bed rest, and gradient elastic stockings. Medications include anticoagulants that "thin" blood to prevent further growth of blood clots, as well as clot-dissolving drugs. Heparin is a common injectable anticoagulant and is usually followed by warfarin (Coumadin) tablets for at least three months. Bed rest with the patient's legs elevated is necessary until the condition improves. Gradient elastic stockings should then be worn, and standing for long periods avoided. In some cases, a filter is surgically placed in the major vein (the inferior vena cava) to trap emboli or clots before they get to the heart and lungs. In another surgical procedure, a catheter is inserted into the vein. When the clot is reached, a balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated, and then withdrawn along with the clot. However, this procedure risks dislodging the clot.

Alternative treatment

Deep vein thrombosis can be life threatening and must be treated with conventional medical therapies. However, some alternative therapies may be used in conjunction with conventional treatments to dissolve the clot. These therapies may help support the body and prevent recurrence. A conventional physician as well as a trained alternative health care practitioner should be consulted due to the severity of this condition.


Complications from DVT can be life threatening or chronically debilitating. Pulmonary emboli develop in about 10% of people with DVT and account for about 10% of all hospital deaths. DVT also can cause inflammation of the blood vessels resulting in loss of contractility and chronically decreased function. On the other hand, about three-quarters of people with DVT remain free of symptoms, and in many cases, the condition resolves with minimal treatment.


Deep vein thrombosis can be prevented through prophylactic anticoagulant drugs and venous stasis prevention with gradient elastic stockings and intermittent pneumatic compression of the legs. Individuals should avoid standing or sitting for long periods without moving; walking or exercising the legs on long airplane and car trips helps keep blood from pooling in the legs and helps to prevent DVT. High-risk individuals often need to remain on oral anticoagulants (e.g., Coumadin) indefinitely.

Key Terms

A long, thin, flexible tube that can be inserted into a vein and moved through the cardiovascular system.

Pulmonary embolism
An obstruction of a blood vessel in the lungs, usually caused by a blood clot that blocks a coronary artery. Pulmonary embolism can be very serious and, in some cases, fatal.

The development of a blood clot inside a blood vessel.

For Your Information



  • "Deep Vein Thrombosis, Thrombophlebitis, and Phlebitis." VascularWeb. 2009 [cited February 18, 2009].

  • Wedro, Benjamin C. "Deep Vein Thrombosis." April 30, 2008 [cited February 18, 2009].

  • "Deep Vein Thrombosis." MedlinePlus. February 17, 2009 [cited February 18, 2009].


  • American Heart Association. 7272 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75231. (800) 242-8721. .

  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Health Information Center. P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105. (301) 592 8573.

  • Society for Vascular Surgery. 633 N. St. Clair, 24th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611; Telephone: 312-334-2300or 800-258-7188. Fax: 312-334-2320; Email:

Deep vein thrombosis

deep vein thrombosis (DVT),

formation of one or more thrombi in the deep veins, usually of the lower extremity or in the pelvis. Carries a high risk of pulmonary embolism.

deep vein thrombosis

n. Abbr. DVT
A condition in which one or more thrombi form in a deep vein, especially in the leg or pelvis, resulting in an increased risk of a pulmonary embolus. Also called deep venous thrombosis.

deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

a disorder involving a thrombus in one of the deep veins of the body, most commonly the iliac or femoral vein. Symptoms include tenderness, pain, swelling, warmth, and discoloration of the skin. A deep vein thrombus is potentially life threatening. Treatment, including bed rest and use of thrombolytic and anticoagulant drugs, is directed to preventing movement of the thrombus toward the lungs. See also pulmonary embolism.
observations It may be asymptomatic or manifest as tenderness, pain, warmth, and swelling in the affected extremity with deep reddish or blue color. There is a positive Homans' sign in about 10% of cases, which affects a lower extremity. Serial compression ultrasonography is the initial test used for diagnosis. Magnetic resonance direct thrombus imaging may be used for thrombi undetectable on ultrasound. Contrast venography remains the gold standard for detection of lower extremity DVT. Chronic venous insufficiency and pulmonary embolus are the most common complications of thrombosis.
interventions Initial treatment is heparin or enoxaparin followed by warfarin for maintenance treatment for 3 to 6 months. Continued monitoring of prothrombin time and partial thromboplastin time is done during anticoagulant therapy. Ligation, clipping, plication, and thrombectomy are surgical alternatives when thrombus fails to respond to anticoagulant therapy. An extravascular vena cava interruption with possible placement of intracaval filter is used for cases involving probable emboli. Analgesics are given for pain; however, aspirin is contraindicated because it interferes with platelet function. Enoxaparin may be used with patients at high risk for DVT to prevent thrombus formation.
nursing considerations Acute care nursing goals focus on prevention of pulmonary emboli, pain relief, prevention of skin breakdown, and prevention of complications related to anticoagulant therapy. Bed rest is instituted for the first several days after beginning anticoagulant with elevation of affected extremity above the level of the heart and use of warm, moist packs. When ambulation is resumed, compression stockings are used to support vein walls and reduce pain and swelling. Individuals are closely observed for signs of bleeding (e.g., gums, nasal mucosa, stool, and urine). Safety precautions are instituted to prevent bruising while on anticoagulants and to prevent skin ulceration of affected extremity. Individuals are monitored for manifestations of pulmonary emboli, including sudden dyspnea, tachypnea, and pleuritic chest pain. Education is important and includes effects and side effects of anticoagulant therapy; need for ongoing blood tests to monitor clotting and regulate anticoagulant dosage; avoidance of activities that may precipitate bleeding; avoidance of anticoagulant over-the-counter medications that may interfere with clotting (e.g., aspirin/aspirin products, NSAIDs, and herbal products). Education is needed about signs of pulmonary embolus and the need for immediate medical attention should they occur. Instruction is provided to prevent pooled blood in the lower extremities, including regular use of compression garments and avoidance of prolonged standing, sitting, or walking. Teaching also includes prevention of future thrombosis episodes, such as avoidance or correction of modifiable risk factors (e.g., tobacco use or alcohol abuse, use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, and prolonged periods of inactivity), regular exercise program, proper posture, and balanced diet with weight loss if indicated.
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Deep vein thrombosis in pregnancy: ultrasound scan

deep vein thrombosis

Internal medicine A condition characterized by blood clots in veins, most often of the lower extremity, often giving rise to embolism and tissue necrosis; DVT occurs in12 of total hips without prophylactic anticoagulation, 2-3% of which evolve to fatal PE; acute DVT occurs in 1:1000 of the general population; 92% are idiopathic, ±8% are due to isolated deficiencies of protein C, protein S, antithrombin III, plasminogen Risk factors ↑ Age, immobilization, prior DVT, anesthesia, surgery, pregnancy, CA, hypercoagulability–↓ AT III, ↓ protein C, ↓ protein S, activated protein C resistance, antiphospholipid syndrome, polycythemia vera, erythrocytosis, tissue trauma–which activates coagulation, and ↑ coagulation factor XI Clinical Vague–SOB ±leg swelling, pain, edema, discoloration Diagnosis Phlebography, impedence plethysmography, compression ultrasonography–real time B mode, Doppler flow velocity, MR venography, radionuclide venography, thermography, d-dimer assay Management Anticoagulation–eg, heparin or warfarin or thrombolytic therapy–eg, alteplase or streptokinase; inferior vena caval filters; thrombectomy. See Total hip replacement.

Patient discussion about deep vein thrombosis

Q. Does anyone have any experience or suggestions regarding aerobic exercise post DVT and/or PE?

A. drink a lot of water and be aware. if you take your meds i think there shouldn't be a problem, but i strongly recommend asking your physician about it. he knows you and the problem and can give you a much much better answer.

Q. Are long flights dangerous? I'm flying next week to my vacation, and the flight is going to be rather long (almost 16 hours non-stop). Several years ago, my 75 years-old aunt had blood clot in her lung after a flight of similar length. I also heard that during flight the blood in the legs clots and that it can cause after that problems with the lungs and breathing. Does this mean it's dangerous for me to fly? Should I change my ticket to shorter connection flights?

A. Do other relatives of yours have blood clotting problems too, like your aunt? You should tell a doctor about the problem your aunt had and ask if it's genetic.

Q. How can I prevent blood clots? I am 45 years old and am supposed to go on a business trip overseas. The flight itself is 12 hours long and then I have to continue traveling by bus. Could this cause me to have blood clots? If so, how can I prevent it?

A. Always walk as much as you can on the plane. Also, rotate your ankels in circles. Sometimes try to use your ankels and make the alphabet with them. Have fun..

More discussions about deep vein thrombosis
References in periodicals archive ?
All patients underwent color-coded duplex sonography, an imaging test, to confirm superficial vein thrombosis and exclude or detect deep vein thrombosis.
Computed tomographic venography is specific but not sensitive for diagnosis of acute lower extremity deep vein thrombosis in patients with suspected pulmonary embolism.
CAMPAIGNERS John Smith, Vale of Glamorgan MP, David Kidney, MP, and Ruth Christoffersen, chairwoman of the Relatives and Victims of Air Related Deep Vein Thrombosis group.
At 124 centers in several countries including the United States, 2,264 patients who required anticoagulation therapy to prevent deep vein thrombosis following total hip replacement surgery were randomized to one of three treatment arms: low-dose heparin (60,000 U/day in a 1.
This week VARDA is holding a Healthy Flying Exhibition at Heathrow Airport and Jennifer will be at long-haul Terminal 3 today and tomorrow to talk to passengers about preventing deep vein thrombosis before they board their flights.
To learn more about deep vein thrombosis, including symptoms, risk factors, and prevention tips, visit vdf.
A review of the Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) products under development by companies and universities/research institutes based on information derived from company and industry-specific sources.
The Family Planning Association today said it should be remembered that the actual risk of deep vein thrombosis was tiny.
Emirates, which operates a daily service between Birmingham and Dubai, is the first carrier to introduce Airogym following fears that deep vein thrombosis is affecting more and more travellers.
The post-mortem discovered a massive pulmonary embolism, traced back to the deep vein thrombosis.
Summary GlobalData's clinical trial report, "Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Global Clinical Trials Review, H1, 2013" provides data on the Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) clinical trial scenario.
Venous thrombosis includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the leg or arm and pulmonary embolism.