03.03.15 Dr. Garth Rosenberg DVT

DVT Risk Increases with Superficial Blood Clot

Superficial blood clots are usually considered "low risk" as their likelihood of causing serious medical problems is small. These clots generally resolved with anti-inflammatory medications, ice and time. Pain resolved faster than the lump of the clot, but sooner or later, it becomes almost unrecognizable. However, it has become apparent that all is not benign with these superficial clots, and some may extend into the deep venous system of the leg, causing DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

A recent study from Denmark showed that 2.5% of patients with "simple" superficial clots experienced extension of the clot to a DVT. Almost 1% of them developed a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is when the clot travels to the lung. This complication can be fatal and the risk needs to be minimized.

Risks for developing superficial clots in the legs include prolonged immobility, trauma to the leg and varicose veins. Venous insufficiency, in particular, leads to stagnant flow in the veins and predisposes to a clot. When a patient suspects a superficial clot in the leg, it is important to seek medical attention. Often a venous duplex ultrasound is done to ensure that there is no associated DVT. If a DVT is identified, routine oral anticoagulant medications are very effective in preventing further complications.

With respect to varicose veins, a know predisposing factor for the development of clots, very effective office based treatment exists. Typically, thermal ablation of the refluxing saphenous vein is done under local anesthesia with immediate return to normal activity. This simple procedure can normalize vein flow and cause the surface varicose veins to shrink, minimizing clot risk. Maintaining an active lifestyle, eliminating smoking and using support hose can also help reduce the risk of clots.

When you suspect a vein clot, or have symptoms of venous insufficiency, seek advice from an established expert in the field of venous disease (phlebology). A member of the American Venous Forum, or one who is a Diplomate of the American Board of Lymphatic and Venous Medicine is an example of such an expert.

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