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Deep Vein Thrombosis
(DVT, Blood Clot in the Legs)

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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) facts

  • The two types of veins in the extremities are called superficial and deep. A blood clot in the deep veins is a concern because it can be dangerous.
  • A blood clot (thrombus) in the deep venous system of the leg becomes dangerous when a piece of the blood clot breaks off (embolus, plural = emboli), travels downstream through the heart into the pulmonary circulation system, and becomes lodged in the lung.
  • A tendency to form blood clots can occur when people are immobile, have blood tendency toward clotting, or have injury to veins or their adjacent tissues.
  • Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include pain, swelling, warmth, tenderness, and redness of the leg.
  • The diagnosis of DVT can be suggested by blood tests and confirmed by ultrasound or other imaging tests.Treatment of DVT typically involves blood thinning medications (anticoagulants) unless they cannot be used. In that situation, an inferior vena cava filter is often used.
  • Complications of DVT include pulmonary embolism and post-phlebitic syndrome.

Introduction to deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Arteries have thin muscles within their walls to be able to withstand the pressure of the heart pumping blood to the far reaches of the body. Veins don't have a significant muscle lining, and there is nothing pumping blood back to the heart except physiology. Blood returns to the heart because the body's large muscles squeeze the veins as they contract in their normal activity of moving the body. The normal activities of moving the body returns the blood back to the heart.

There are two types of veins in the leg; superficial veins and deep veins. Superficial veins lie just below the skin and are easily seen on the surface. Deep veins, as their name implies, are located deep within the muscles of the leg. Blood flows from the superficial veins into the deep venous system through small perforator veins. Superficial and perforator veins have one-way valves within them that allow blood to flow only in the direction of the heart when the veins are squeezed.

A blood clot (thrombus) in the deep venous system of the leg is not dangerous in itself. The situation becomes life-threatening when a piece of the blood clot breaks off (embolus, pleural=emboli), travels downstream through the heart into the pulmonary circulation system, and becomes lodged in the lung. Diagnosis and treatment of a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is meant to prevent pulmonary embolism.

Clots in the superficial veins do not pose a danger of causing pulmonary emboli because the perforator vein valves act as a sieve to prevent clots from entering the deep venous system. They are usually not at risk of causing pulmonary embolism.

Picture of how red blood cells and platelets form a blood clot
Picture of how red blood cells and platelets form a blood clot
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/29/2013

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Deep Vein Thrombosis - Symptoms Question: For deep vein thrombosis, what were the symptoms and signs you experienced?
Deep Vein Thrombosis - Diagnosis Question: How was your deep vein thrombosis diagnosed?
Deep Vein Thrombosis - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including medication, did you receive for deep vein thrombosis?
Deep Vein Thrombosis - Prevention Question: In what ways do you try to prevent a recurrence of deep vein thrombosis?
Deep Vein Thrombosis - Possible Causes Question: Were you pregnant or did you sit on a plane for a long time? What was the cause of your deep vein thrombosis?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/deep_vein_thrombosis/article.htm

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