Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot in the deep leg vein. It is a very serious condition that can cause permanent damage to the leg or a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. In the United States alone, 600,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. One in every 100 people who develops DVT dies. Recently, it has been referred to as "Economy Class Syndrome" due to the occurrence after sitting on long flights.
The deep veins that lie near the center of the leg are surrounded by powerful muscles that contract and force deoxygenated blood back to the lungs and heart. One-way valves prevent the back-flow of blood between the contractions. (Blood is squeezed up the leg against gravity and the valves prevent it from flowing back to our feet.) When the circulation of the blood slows down due to illness, injury or inactivity, blood can accumulate or "pool," which provides an ideal setting for clot formation.
The Vascular Disease Foundation is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to help reduce disability and death from vascular disease.
Left untreated, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can break off and travel in the circulation, getting trapped in the lung, where it blocks the oxygen supply, causing heart failure. This is known as a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. With early treatment, people with DVT can reduce their chances of developing a life threatening pulmonary embolism to less than one percent. Blood thinners like heparin and coumadin are effective in preventing further clotting and can prevent a pulmonary embolism from occurring.
The symptoms are frequently nonspecific and can mimic many other cardiopulmonary events.
Many cases of DVT can be prevented through regular activity, healthy eating and talking to your health care provider about preventing blood clots before any surgical procedures or hospitalizations. You should also tell your health care provider if you have any risk factors for DVT.
You can reduce your risk by:
When sitting for long periods of time, such as when traveling for more than six hours:
Information posted on this Web site by SIR or Coastal Vascular & Interventional, PLLC should not be considered medical advice and is not intended to replace consultation or discussion with an interventional radiologist or vascular surgeon. It is very important that individuals with specific medical problems or questions consult with their doctor or other health care professional.
“Reprinted with permission of the Society of Interventional Radiology 2004, 2011, www.SIRweb.org and www.VDF.org. All rights reserved.”