Comprehensive Venous Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism Program 

In the United States, as many as 600,000 people each year suffer from venous thromboembolism — a condition characterized by blood clots obstructing a large vein (venous thrombosis) and pulmonary embolism. Blood clots can be dangerous, and even fatal, if you do not receive treatment in a timely manner.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our multidisciplinary venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism team works closely together to quickly identify, screen, diagnose and treat these conditions. Using advanced treatments and state-of-the-art technology, our team has the expertise and experience to give you the care you deserve.

The Difference Between Thrombosis and Embolism

Thrombosis and embolism are related conditions, but symptoms and treatments may be very different. A thrombosis occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in a vein, typically in the legs. The thrombus can block or restrict blood flow to and away from the vein, ultimately impacting blood circulation. Without treatment, the thrombus may lead to the formation of scar tissue in the vein, which can block blood flow and lead to significant pain and swelling.

Alternatively, a pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when an existing thrombus breaks away from the vein and travels through the heart and into the lungs. The embolus then becomes trapped and can partially or completely restrict blood flow. This is called a venous thromboembolism (VTE), and can lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, or in some cases, death.

What is Venous Thromboembolism?

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the third leading cause of cardiovascular disease after heart attack and stroke, with more than 100,000 Americans dying from VTE each year. Every thrombus has the risk of embolization, so catching and treating the initial clot as soon as possible will decrease the chance of embolism or VTE. The symptoms of VTE can sometimes be subtle, and a delay in diagnosis may impact outcomes.

Risks and Symptoms of Venous Thromboembolism

While anyone can have venous thromboembolism, there are some risk factors that can make you more susceptible to VTE. Being aware of common risks can help you prevent VTE early. Risk factors for clotting include:

  • Having previous VTE
  • Family history of VTE
  • Obesity
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Traveling long distances
  • Comorbidities, such as cancer, infections, lupus and spinal cord injuries
  • Advanced age
  • Undergoing surgery, fractures or trauma
  • Contraceptives
  • Estrogen medication for menopause
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic clotting disorders (hypercoaguable states)

Typically, there is no singular cause for a blood clot, but it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a clot so that you can be diagnosed and treated sooner. Contact your physician if you are experiencing any of the following:

Venous Thrombosis Symptoms

  • Pain or tenderness in the leg or arm that came on suddenly
  • Discoloration or redness at the site where you are feeling pain
  • Swelling

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

  • Trouble breathing
  • Lightheartedness or fainting
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Cough that produces blood

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