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"What is deep vein thrombosis?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat is deep vein thrombosis?


What exactly is deep vein thrombosis? My mother was about to be discharged from the hospital this morning when the doctor got really alarmed about her legs. She (the doctor) said my mom could leave until they 'resolved' the potential DVT situation.


A DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, is a blood clot in the venous system normally found in the deep veins of the legs. The main risk factors for developing a DVT are as follows: -immobility: long plane rides, prolonged bed rest during a hospital stay -vascular injury: surgery, infection and cancers tend to predispose vessels to clotting -hypercoaguable state: cancer as well as many inherited disorders can predispose patients to DVTs The major concern (and why your mother's doctor was so alarmed) with DVT is that the blood clot will pass from the veins in the legs up to the pulmonary vessels. This can happen if the blood clot loosens, is returned to the heart and then pumped out into the blood supply to the lungs.

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This clot in the lungs is called a pulmonary embolus (PE) and can have severe consequences including cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. As such, it is necessary to treat DVT to prevent this complication. The standard treatment uses blood 'thinning' agents such as heparin and coumadin in order to prevent the clot from worsening and to prevent future clots. this therapy prevents the patient's blood from clotting very well, which is good to treat the DVT and prevent PE, but can predispose patients to excessive bleeding with trauma such as falls, which can be a significant risk (especially in older patients). Therapy normally will last for 3-6 months after the DVT, or may be indefinite if the patient is at high risk for recurrence. Hope this helps!

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