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

Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment continued...

How long someone takes blood thinners depends on many factors including how the clot developed. If there were temporary risk factors, for example a long trip or recent immobility because of injury or illness, treatment may last 3-6 months. However, if the cause is unknown, you have a condition such as cancer that can cause blood clots, or there is a recurrent clot, medication may be required for more than 12 months.

Sometimes the doctor will inject clot-dissolving drugs called thombolytics. This has a higher chance of complications than using blood-thinning drugs and is usually reserved for life-threatening conditions.

Not all DVTs require blood thinners. Because small clots located in veins below the knee have a low risk of traveling to the lung, people with them may only be watched by the doctor. Using ultrasound tests of the veins, the clot can be monitored to see whether it is growing.

If the patient can’t use anticoagulants, or has recurrent blood clots even while on them, the doctor may place a filter in the blood vessel called the vena cava. The filter catches new clots before they can travel to the lungs but does not keep new clots from forming.

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. Your doctor can tell you how long to wear them.

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 monitored 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 you are taking an anticoagulant before undergoing any procedure.

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