Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot (thrombus) in your deep veins, most commonly your legs. While this clot can cause leg pain, tenderness, or swelling, it may also occur without any symptoms making it more difficult to diagnose. This is a serious condition because these blood clots can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and block blood flow to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), which can cause sudden death.
Another danger of DVT is known as post-thrombotic syndrome. This occurs when the valves of the deep venous system are damaged, or veins are blocked, resulting in long-term symptoms such as pain, swelling, and discoloration of the skin.
Risk factors for DVT include long periods of sitting during travel or hospital stay, surgery, trauma and a variety of medical conditions and blood clotting abnormalities. Dr. Thomas Cunningham is a board-certified Interventional Radiologist able to diagnose and manage DVT blood clots. Treatment usually includes the use of blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) that prevent new clots from forming or prevent existing clots from getting larger. If you believe you have a DVT but also have shortness of breath, rapid heart rate (palpitations), or chest pain, you should dial 911 or get to a hospital immediately as this may mean you have a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs).
Newer catheter-directed therapies are available, including devices that remove clots, administer drugs directly into a clot, or both. Procedures of this kind typically are done by an Interventional Radiologist in a hospital setting.