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Deep Vein Thrombosis

What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Last updated on:
15/04/2013

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which blood clots form in a vein deep within the body. The word thrombosis means forming a blood clot. The clot itself is called a thrombus.

A blood clot is a jelly-like mass of congealed blood. Clotting is the normal way the body stops bleeding and begins healing following injury. Once the clot has done its job, the body absorbs it. Sometimes, however, blood clotting can prove harmful.

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein and remains there.

DVT usually involves the formation of a large clot in the deep veins in the lower legs and thighs. In rare instances, DVT can occur in the area around the armpit and collar bone (axillary-subclavian vein thrombosis), in the upper arm, abdomen, or pelvic region.

It is a dangerous condition because the clot may become dislodged from the vein and travel inside the vein all the way to the lung, where it may get trapped and block a vessel in the lung. This is called pulmonary embolism, which can be deadly.

Deep vein thrombosis most often occurs in:

  • Hospitalized patients following surgery.
  • Individuals confined to bed for prolonged periods.
  • Healthy individuals whose legs remain immobilized for long stretches of time, such as passengers on lengthy airline flights.

Need To Know:

Because deep vein thrombosis can have serious consequences, early detection is essential to prevent complications like pulmonary embolism. Surgeons, for example, are always on the lookout for DVT following surgery.

Need To Know:

Q. Who is at risk for deep vein thrombosis?

A. Some people are more likely than others to develop thrombosis. Those at risk include:

  • The elderly
  • Diabetics
  • People with blood disorders
  • Women who take oral contraceptives (birth control pills) or other medications that contain the hormone estrogen
  • People with a history of thrombosis
  • People who have just undergone major surgeries or have just suffered a bone fracture.

Facts about deep vein thrombosis:

  • Deep vein thrombosis is the second most common vascular problem in the United States. The first is varicose veins.
  • In the United States, deep vein thrombosis affects as many as 600,000 individuals every year.
  • The condition is most commonly seen in people over age 60, but anyone can be affected.

 

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.