Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT is a blood clot in one of your deep veins. DVT’S usually occur in the pelvis, thigh or calf, but can less commonly occur in the arm, chest or other location. DVT is often caused due to poor blood flow or stagnation of blood flow in your leg veins increasing the risk of DVT. This poor flow or stagnation can occur when you are unable to move around for long periods of time, causing blood to pool in the veins which can then allow clots to form. Some specific causes of DVT include major surgery, fractured hip or leg, prolonged sitting (airplane rides), genetic blood clotting abnormalities, and cancer.

Symptoms of DVT may include changes in skin color, increased warmth of the effected limb, leg pain, tenderness and possibly edema of the effected limb. Should any of these symptoms occur you should contact your health care provider immediately.

Your vascular surgeon may order a duplex ultrasound or venogram of the affected limb. The ultrasound will detect and measure the speed of blood flow as well as the structure of your veins. A venogram is an x-ray that allows your physician to see the anatomy of your veins and sometimes the clots within them.

Treatments of DVT include anticoagulation therapy, minimally invasive procedures and rarely surgery may be required. Anticoagulation therapy may be the first stage in your treatment. Anticoagulants, such as Heparin, help prevent your blood from clotting too easily. Heparin helps prevent clots from forming and keeps clots your already have from increasing in size; heparin does not break up a clot you already have. Heparin acts rapidly and may need to be given intravenously (IV) as an inpatient in the hospital depending on your other contributing health factors.

Alternative forms of Heparin can be given through subcutaneous injections once or twice daily dependent on your surgeon’s choice of treatment. These treatments are able to be done at home after instructions are reviewed and understanding is demonstrated by the patient. These injections are usually given for 7-10 days. Coumadin may also be initiated in conjunction with the heparin. Coumadin is an anticoagulation pill taken by mouth. This pill does not have an immediate effect; which is why it is normally initiated in conjunction with heparin. During anticoagulation therapy your surgeon may order blood tests regularly to confirm you are taking the correct dosage of Coumadin. He or she may also order an additional follow up duplex ultrasound to confirm resolution of your DVT.

The length of time for anticoagulation treatment is dependent upon the individual and is determined by your surgeon.