Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the body, usually from the groin to the knee. A potentially serious medical problem, DVTs can break off and travel to the lungs, causing life-threatening pulmonary embolisms (PE). Both conditions require immediate medical attention.
An estimated 900,000 (1 to 2 per 1,000) Americans experience DVT/PE per year. Ten to 30 percent will die within one month of diagnosis and sudden death as the first symptom of PE occurs in 25 percent of people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A variety of factors can put you at risk for DVT such as a family history of blood clots, age over 60, prolonged immobility due to bed rest or long airplane or car trips, major surgery, obesity or pregnancy. We may refer patients with these conditions to specialists with specific expertise in the treatment of blood clotting disorders.
Signs & Symptoms | Screening & Diagnosis | Treatment Options
Signs and Symptoms
While half of people with a DVT exhibit no symptoms, some of the most common signs of a blood clot include:
- Swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg
- Pain, tenderness or cramping in the leg that worsens when standing or walking
- Excessive warmth in the affected area
- Skin that has turned red or blue
Screening and Diagnosis
At NorthShore, our vascular specialists rely on their clinical knowledge to accurately screen and diagnose patients with DVTs and employ the latest imaging tools when necessary. During your comprehensive evaluation, one of our experienced board-certified vascular surgeons will ask you about your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Your NorthShore physician expert may recommend a painless, non-invasive diagnostic procedure called a duplex ultrasound test to confirm the diagnosis.
Most DVTs can be effectively treated with medications or minimally-invasive techniques to either prevent the clot from becoming larger or to break up the clot. We offer a number of treatment options, including:
- Anticoagulants—Blood-thinners such as heparin and warfarin (Coumadin) are usually the first-line treatment for preventing further clot formation or enlargement of a current clot.
- Thrombolysis—A catheter-based procedure, thrombolysis involves the injection of clot-busting drugs directly into the vein. This technique is often recommended for patients at high risk for pulmonary embolism or for blood clots in the upper extremities. For example, venous thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that can lead to blood clots in the arm. It develops when undue pressure is placed on one or more of the veins under the collarbone (clavicle), disrupting blood circulation and causing clots to form.
Due to the potentially life-threatening nature of DVTs, we recommend you seek timely medical care. Our knowledgeable vascular surgeons work closely with primary care physicians and are available at all four NorthShore hospitals for emergency consultations.
At NorthShore we also offer a DVT Support Group. This group provides an opportunity for patients and their families to receive information, share treatment experiences and discuss concerns related to their blood clotting condition.
For More Information
Please call 847.663.8050 for more information on deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or to schedule an appointment with one of our vascular specialists.