Blood clots

 

Blood clots in the legs are a very serious medical condition and must be treated promptly. The most dangerous type of blood clot is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a clot in one of the deep veins of the leg. If a piece of the clot breaks off, it can travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism (PE) that is a life-threatening event. DVT can be detected by an ultrasound study of the venous systems of the leg.

 

A less dangerous type of blood clot in the leg is called a superficial vein thrombophlebitis (SVT). This is a clot in a superficial vein and generally is not dangerous. However, since the superficial and deep venous systems are very much interconnected, an ultrasound examination of the legs veins should be performed to ensure that the clot does not extend into the deep system or fill a significant portion of a saphenous vein. Sometimes, SVT requires the use of blood thinning medication, but usually compression hose and anti-inflammatory medication is all that is needed for successful treatment.

 

Risk factors for DVT and SVT include:

 

Cancer

Complication from a medical procedure

Varicose veins

Venous reflux (valve failure) in the saphenous or deep veins

Pregnancy

Immobilization

  • Long airplane flight

  • Long car ride

  • Wearing a cast on the leg

  • Inactivity due to illness

Injury to a vein

Sedentary lifestyle

Obesity

Cigarette smoking

Hormone use

  • Hormone replacement after menopause

  • Birth control pills

Family history of DVT or SVT

Gene mutations that enhance blood clotting (partial list)

  • Factor V

  • Leiden Prothrombin gene mutation

  • Deficiency of protein S or protein C

 

Clovis E. Manley, MD

Evansville Regional Vein Center

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