Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in one of the major deep veins of the lower legs, thighs, or pelvis. A clot blocks blood circulation through these veins, which carries blood from the lower body back to the heart. The blockage can cause pain, swelling, or warmth in the leg. Blood clots in the veins can cause inflammation called thrombophlebitis. If the clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream, it can block a blood vessel in the lungs. Called pulmonary embolism, this can lead to severe trouble breathing and even death.
In the U.S., about 2 million people per year get deep vein thrombosis. Most of them are 40 or older. Up to 600,000 of them are hospitalized each year. About 200,000 people die each year from pulmonary embolism.
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About 30%-50% of people with deep vein thrombosis do not have symptoms.
When to Seek Medical Care
Call a doctor immediately if you think you have DVT. Although a deep vein thrombosis may get better on its own, it could also lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. The doctor may tell you to go immediately to a hospital emergency room.
If someone has leg pain or swelling with any risk factors for DVT, go to an emergency room immediately.
Call 911 if you or someone you know with a current deep vein thrombosis, previous deep vein thrombosis, or risk factor begins having chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fainting, or any other symptoms that concern you.