Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) / Thrombophlebitis

Illustration of the circulation system of the legs

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What is deep vein thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops in a vein deep in the body. Deep veins are found within groups of muscles. The veins close to the skin are called superficial veins.

While these clots most often develop in the lower legs or thighs, they may appear in the upper body, such as the arms or other locations in the body. It is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million persons in the U.S. who develop deep vein thrombosis each year. Deep vein thrombosis is a risk for any major surgery, but patients who have surgery of the legs or hips are at higher risk.

Deep vein thrombosis can pose a serious threat to health. Pieces of a clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lung. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal soon after it occurs. Deep vein thrombosis can also block blood flow in the veins, causing the blood to pool. This can cause swelling, pain, and permanent damage to the leg called post-thrombolic syndrome.

Illustration of deep vein thrombosis of the leg

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What is thrombophlebitis?

When a clot forms in a vein, inflammation of the vein may occur at the affected site. This is referred to as thrombophlebitis. Inflammation may be minimal, or may be more pronounced, causing swelling, redness, warmth, and tenderness at the site. When thrombophlebitis occurs, the body's response to inflammation may promote the formation of more clots.

What are the risk factors for deep vein thrombosis?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, diet, family history, or many other things.

Although these risk factors increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others develop disease and have no known risk factors. Knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

Risk factors related to or that may contribute to deep vein thrombosis and thrombophlebitis include, but are not limited to, the following:

What causes deep vein thrombosis?

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of deep vein thrombosis:

What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis occurs without symptoms about 50 percent of the time. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

The symptoms of deep vein thrombosis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is deep vein thrombosis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for deep vein thrombosis may include the following:

Treatment for deep vein thrombosis:

Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:

The goal of treatment is to prevent the clot from growing, to ensure that it does not break off and travel through the veins to the lungs, and to help reduce the possibility of another blood clot forming.

Treatment may include:

Prevention of deep vein thrombosis:

Preventing deep vein thrombosis is important to prevent pulmonary embolism, which can lead to serious complications.

Medications, such as anticoagulants, may be given to certain surgical patients to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Those patients who have had a previous clot should follow the instructions of their physician.

Preventing deep vein thrombosis caused by long periods of sitting or reclining involves moving the lower leg. Flexing (bending) the knees may be helpful.

Other preventative measures may include:

Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

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