Deep Vein Thrombosis: Are You at Risk? - Ascension Wisconsin

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Deep Vein Thrombosis: Are You at Risk?

Deep Vein Thrombosis (or DVT) refers to the formation of blood clots – thrombosis – usually in the veins of the legs. Every year, as many as 900,000 Americans develop these clots, which can damage blood vessels. Even more dangerous, the clots can travel in the blood to the lungs, blocking blood flow, and causing a condition called pulmonary embolism.

DVT/pulmonary embolism kills more than 60,000-100,000 people in the United States each year.

“Sometimes DVT is silent,” said Allan Pasch, MD, FACS, General and Vascular Surgeon with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in Glendale and Wauwatosa. “Pain or swelling in one limb are the most common symptoms, but these may also occur with problems other than DVT.”

DVT Risk Factors

Several factors may impact your risks for DVT. Controllable risk behaviors include cigarette smoking or being overweight.

Others include:

  • Long periods of bedrest
  • Fractures in the pelvis or legs
  • Giving birth within the last 6 months 
  • Heart failure
  • Recent hospitalization or surgery 

You're also more likely to develop DVT if you:

  • Have blood that is more likely to clot due to an inherited disorder
  • Take hormone pills or oral contraception
  • Had DVT previously
  • Have a malignancy (cancer)

DVTs are most common in adults over age 60, but can occur at any age. Sitting for long periods when traveling may increase risk. Leg exercises can be done while sitting in place to keep blood moving.

DVT Detection & Treatment

“Diagnosis of DVT based on symptoms is difficult and can be inaccurate," says Pasch. "If your physician suspects DVT, a venous ultrasound (also called a duplex scan) is necessary to make the diagnosis.” 

Treatment usually involves blood thinners for a variable length of time. If DVT has travelled to the lungs, blood thinners or a medicine that dissolves the clot may be used.

Early detection and prompt anticoagulation is the key to successful treatment of DVT and prevention of pulmonary embolism.

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Deep Vein Thrombosis: Are You at Risk?