What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body, typically in the leg or arm. An untreated DVT can be very serious and may permanently damage the vein. A blood clot from DVT can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.

The University of Chicago Medicine multidisciplinary deep vein thrombosis team delivers expertise, leading-edge care and outstanding outcomes. Experts from cardiology, hematology, radiology, and vascular surgery work together, from diagnosis and treatment, through follow-up care, to provide the best available therapies for patients.

Physicians are available 24 hours a day for consultation of DVT.

DVT Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding the risks associated with PE is crucial, and typical risks include:

  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Previous surgery (especially orthopaedic)
  • Immobility due to hospitalization
  • Family history or genetic condition
  • Contraceptives or estrogen medication
  • Advanced age
  • Obesity

Symptoms of DVT

  • Pain, especially deep in the muscle
  • Inflammation, redness or warmth
  • Swelling of the extremity
  • Aching or tenderness
  • Fever

 

How to Diagnose Deep Vein Thrombosis

Diagnosis begins with a thorough history that outlines your symptoms and medical problems, along with a physical exam. In order to have the most accurate diagnosis, you may also require:

This non-invasive evaluation is used to examine blood flow and the structure of your veins. A handheld ultrasound device is placed on your body to obtain an image of the vein and the blood flowing through it. Oftentimes, this is enough to diagnose a DVT.

This x-ray test involves injecting contrast dye into a vein to show how blood flows. Venography can enable physicians to target treatment by better understanding the exact location of blood clots, scarring, and new blood vessels (collaterals) that have formed due to the obstruction(s).

The MRI machine uses a large magnet and a computer to take pictures of the inside of your body. The scan can provide a clear image of the blood vessels in your body, which helps physicians check for blood clots or any additional damage in the vessels or surrounding organs.

A CT scan is a type of x-ray that shows structures inside the body. The scan may be used to identify where the DVT originated and if there are blood clots that have traveled to other parts of the body, such as the lungs. 

Treatment Options for Deep Vein Thrombosis

The UChicago Medicine offers comprehensive treatment for DVT. Depending on your diagnosis, our physicians may recommend one or more treatments and will take the time to ensure you feel comfortable about your care.

Medications are typically the first-line treatment for DVT. In the case of large or higher-risk DVTs, special catheters are sometimes used to inject medications directly into the vein in order to dissolve the clot. Additionally, blood-thinning medications (oral anticoagulants) help prevent new blood clots from forming.

Making lifestyle changes in conjunction with medication can also improve your health. For instance, eating healthier and having a regular exercise routine can lower your risk of additional blood clots. Additionally, wearing compression stockings can ease leg swelling when veins have been damaged and can prevent future blood clots in leg veins.

As the largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava (IVC) is critical for maintaining blood flow to the heart and lungs. If clot-busting medication and anticoagulants are not enough to dissolve or decrease the blood clot, or if you cannot take these medications, IVC filters can be implanted in the vein to trap blood clots if they were to embolize. When this has treated your clot, our expert team performs IVC filter removal in a similar image-guided, minimally invasive fashion utilizing advanced technologies. At UChicago Medicine, we have particular expertise in removing IVC filters that have been in place for a long time, or have otherwise caused damage to the IVC.

This minimally invasive procedure uses image-guided technology to insert a small catheter into the blood vessel and deliver targeted medication directly into the blood clot.

Through catheterization, a small, thin tube (catheter) is placed into the vessel near the thrombus. With image-guided technology, the catheter is then used to break up and remove the thrombus.

When vessels such as the iliac veins or the inferior vena cava are blocked from clot for a long time, the vein may ultimately scar. In these circumstances, radiologists or surgeons may perform a procedure known as recanalization to create a new channel or path in the vessel to restore blood flow. This procedure is typically done minimally invasively using image-guided technology.

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