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Deep Vein Thrombosis (Blood Clot in the Leg, DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment continued...

Rarely, the doctor will remove the blood clot with surgery. It's done mostly in patients who cannot take blood thinners or who have gotten blood clots while on blood thinners. The doctor usually also places a filter in the blood vessel called the vena cava. The filter catches new clots before they can travel to the lungs.

Compression stockings are useful in preventing a complication of a leg blood clot called postthrombotic syndrome or postphlebitis syndrome, in which the leg swells and becomes painful. These stockings may be bought over-the-counter or can be custom fitted. They should be worn for at least a year.

 

Next Steps

A person who has had a deep vein thrombosis may need follow-up Doppler ultrasounds or other tests if the leg swelling persists or if the symptoms come back. During anticoagulant treatment, it is often advised to take the following measures:

  • Take the prescribed amount of medication. Do not miss or add doses.
  • Follow the doctor's instructions closely about when to get lab tests for blood coagulation.
  • Ask the doctor before starting or stopping any medication, including over-the-counter medications. Many medicines increase or otherwise interfere with the effect of anticoagulants.
  • Ask what foods should be avoided, because some foods may change the effectiveness of blood-thinning drugs.
  • Wear a Medic-alert bracelet with information about any anticoagulants that you are taking.
  • Inform any other medical professionals including dentists or podiatrists that your are taking an anticoagulant before undergoing any procedure.

 

Prevention

The key to prevention is to reverse any risk factors, for example:

  • If a person is obese, lose weight.
  • Avoid periods of prolonged immobility.
  • Keep the legs elevated while sitting down or in bed.
  • Avoid high-dose estrogen pills, unless they are deemed necessary by your doctor.

If you have had surgery recently, preventive treatment may be prescribed to avoid formation of a clot.

  • You may be instructed to get out of bed several times a day during the recovery period.
  • Sequential compression devices (SCDs) may be placed on the legs. Their squeezing action has been shown to reduce the probability of clot formation. You also may be given elastic stockings to wear.
  • Low-molecular-weight heparin or low-dose warfarin may be prescribed to prevent clot formation.

 

Outlook

Most DVTs get better on their own. But nearly 20% of untreated DVTs located above the calf travel to the lung, and 10%-20% of those are fatal.

If a person has had one deep vein thrombosis, they are more likely than the average person to have another deep vein thrombosis. A second deep vein thrombosis occurs within three months in 5% to 8% of people who have had one deep vein thrombosis and within two years in 20%.

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WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed on March 10, 2010

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