Deep Vein Thrombosis, also known as DVT, is a blood clot (thrombus) in one of your deep veins. DVT occurs most commonly in your thigh or calf, but can occur in other locations.
Blood clots from DVT can break free to travel through your bloodstream. Known as an embolus, a floating blood clot can embed in an artery in your lung and block blood flow. This serious condition called pulmonary embolism can cause severe damage to your lung and may be life-threatening. DVT can be treated but symptoms are sometimes difficult to recognize.
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Standard treatment for DVT includes being placed on a blood thinner. However, in select patients, a procedure called thrombolysis, where the DVT is dissolved with medication directly injected into the clot. Ohio State's vascular surgeons offer thrombolysis in appropriate cases.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
When blood thickens and clumps together, it is known as a blood clot. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a vein located in a muscle of your thigh, calf or other part of your body. These blood clots can block flow in the affected area, causing symptoms such as:
- Pain and tenderness
- Discoloration of the skin
If any of these symptoms occur, call your doctor. Only about 50 percent of people with DVT actually have symptoms.
What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?
If your veins become damaged from an injury, surgery or even an immune response, they are more likely to form blood clots. Blood flow can slow down when you are inactive for long periods of time, such as when you are traveling long distances or when you are bed-ridden due to illness. Your blood can also become thicker due to some genetic medical conditions and also as a result of birth control therapy.
Risk factors that contribute to deep vein thrombosis are:
- Age older than 60
- Birth control pills or hormone therapy
- Disorders that make your blood more likely to clot
- History of DVT
- Injury to a deep vein
- Insertion of a central venous catheter (tube placed in vein to provide access for medical therapy)
- Overweight or obesity
- Pregnancy and the first six weeks following birth
- Sedentary lifestyle
Having more than one risk factor at a time increases your risk of developing DVT, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Control your blood pressure
- Exercise and stretch frequently
- Lose weight
- Move around as much as possible after a procedure or after having been ill for a long period of time
- Quit smoking
- Take medication as prescribed by your doctor to prevent clots
If you are at risk for DVT and having surgery, certain precautions can be taken by your surgical team to reduce your risk. Your doctor can prescribe medication before or after surgery. You may also be requested to stop taking certain medications prior to your surgery. If you have some of the risk factors mentioned above, talk to your doctor.