What is deep vein thrombosis?
When blood clots in the deep veins of the leg it is known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Patients often experience leg pain and swelling caused by the DVT, but the presentation is variable and some patients can feel just a mild ache.
How do these blood clots develop?
Many factors have the potential to increase your risk of blood clots. Some of the common ones are an inherited blood clotting disorder, prolonged bed rest or immobility (due to a chronic disease, injury, prolonged surgery, long flights), birth control pills, smoking and cancer.
What are the risks associated with deep vein thrombosis?
DVT is a serious medical condition for several reasons, but the most concerning is the risk that a piece of the clot breaks off and travels through the blood stream, into the heart and then into the lungs. If a clot passes to the lung it is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE can be life threatening, as it may interfere with the ability of the lungs to oxygenate the blood and the ability of the heart to pump effectively.
A common condition after DVT is postphlebitic syndrome, which causes chronic leg pain, swelling, skin discoloration, potential skin ulceration and damage to the valves in the deep veins. The extensive damage to the fine one-way valves of the deep veins in the leg lead to reflux (backflow) in the vein, elevated venous pressures, chronic inflammation and the symptoms noted above. This also leads to backpressure being transmitted to the superficial veins and varicose veins are commonly seen after a deep vein blood clot. Postphlebitic syndrome skin changes tend to be permanent.
What treatment options are available at Capitol Vein & Laser Centers?
The goals of DVT treatment are to prevent the clot from growing larger, prevent the clot from traveling to the heart and lungs, reduce the risk of recurrent clots and reduce the risk of postphlebitic syndrome. Controlling risk factors that predispose to DVT is essential.
Blood thinners (anticoagulants) reduce the ability of the blood to clot and therefore help prevent clot growth. Common medications include Coumadin® (warfarin), heparin, Xarelto®, Eliquis®, and Predaxa®. The duration of anticoagulant use is determined by you and your doctor, but usually at least 3 months of use is needed. Blood clot dissolvers (thrombolytics) are very powerful drugs that help your body break up the clots. The medications are only used in very specific circumstances, as the risk of bleeding is high and not all DVT cases respond favorably.