What is DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)?
Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT[¹] is a condition where there is formation of blood clot (thrombus) in deep seated veins. It commonly occurs in the region of calf muscles. The common causes are surgical procedures and long-haul flights.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is the presence of blood clot or a thrombus in a vein. It commonly occurs in the calf muscle area, especially after surgery and long-haul flights. Individuals who are overweight, over the age of 50 or those who have poor blood circulation are at high risk for developing DVT. This condition becomes life threatening if a piece of the clot breaks off and enters into blood circulation towards heart, lungs or brain. It may result in a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.
What Are The Causes[²] of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)?
- Continuous sitting as seen in prolonged traveling by airplane, car or train.
- Immobility due to hospitalization, surgery etc.
- Trauma or injury to the lower leg (vein) as seen in fractures, bruised leg or as a complication after a surgical procedure.
- Pregnancy and the postpartum period.
- Hypercoagulability of the blood due to certain medications e.g. birth control pills, smoking, genetic predisposition, polycythemia and cancer.
What are the Symptoms Observed in Patients with DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)?
- Persistent calf pain.
- Tenderness, redness and warmth is present.
- Pain upon dorsiflexion of the foot.
- In severe cases where a piece of blood clot breaks and enters the circulation may result in stroke, pulmonary embolism or heart attack with symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath. This requires immediate medical condition.
What are the Treatment Options for DVT[⁴] (Deep Vein Thrombosis)?
- Immediate medical attention should be sought.
- A scan helps in confirming the diagnosis.
- Superficial blood clots can be treated with warm compresses, compression of the leg and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Heparin (anti-coagulant) injections can be given daily for up to seven days.
- Warfarin is an anti-coagulant medication which should be taken in a pill form, daily, for a period of 6 months.
- Regular blood tests should be taken to monitor the warfarin dose.
- Warfarin should be taken with caution as excess of this medicine increases the risk of bleeding and if it is taken in less quantity, then it may lead to increase in the clot size.
- Warfarin should be avoided in pregnant ladies as it can cause birth defects in the baby.
- Surgery is required for those patients who have contraindication to blood thinners or who have recurrent blood clots while on anti-coagulant medications.