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Blood Clots Part 1: What is a DVT?

What is a DVT?

DVT is an acronym for Deep Vein Thrombosis. Another word for blood clot is embolism.

It is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep, large veins, usually in the left. Some patients question the severity on this condition. After all, they’ve experienced a blood clot before. Superficially, blood clots save their life and keep them from bleeding when their skin is cut. However, blood clots that occur in the deeper veins are life threatening because they can come loose and travel to more important deep veins- such as in the heart, lung, or brain.

Blood clots in the heart, coronary embolisms, can lead to clogging of the heart’s arteries, stunting blood flow and possibly having fatal results.

In the lungs, a blood clot is called a pulmonary embolism. Patient’s PE’s present with difficulty breathing (shortness of breath), bloody coughing, and chest pain.

Embolisms in the brain can lead to a fatal stroke.

How do you diagnose a DVT?

Symptoms of a DVT include:

-Pain (in the leg, the pain feels deep in the calf or thigh)
-Swelling (there is significant swelling in the limb)
-Redness and warmth (usually accompanied with swelling, the limb will look and feel warm because of the build-up of blood backed up in the vein)

In some cases, the patient might present with a more severe symptom, such as a pulmonary embolism, before the DVT is diagnosed.

Your physician will require that you receive immediate medical attention to treat the DVT. They will require imaging on the affected limb via a Doppler test/ultrasound. If ultrasound results as not clear, the physician may order a venogram (an x-ray which takes pictures of the patient’s veins after a contrast is infused).

DVT Treatment

Your physician will start treatment for a DVT right away. Usually, they will order you a prescription for blood thinners like Lovenox, Coumadin, Xarelto, or Arixtra. Emergency situations may call for an IV of Heparin.

If you suspect that you have a DVT, seek medical attention through your PCP so they can monitor your long-term DVT care. If you are suspicious over the weekend, your local urgent care center may be able to initiate care until you can see your PCP. As always, if you are experiencing extreme symptoms of a possible DVT, seek emergency care (such as for a stroke or pulmonary embolism).

-Carolyn A. Medrano

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