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Treatment for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) -- a blood clot deep in a vein -- ranges from medication to self-care to surgery. Discuss treatment options with your doctor.

Goals of Treatment for DVT

There is more than one goal of treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The goals include:

  • Preventing a clot from growing
  • Preventing a clot from breaking off and traveling to the lung or another organ
  • Avoiding long-lasting complications, such as leg pain and swelling
  • Preventing blood clots from recurring

Blood Thinners for DVT

Blood thinners (also called anticoagulants) are the most common type of treatment for DVT. The main blood thinners used to treat DVT’s are: 

Heparin: People with DVT may receive heparin intravenously or by injection in the hospital for several days. You may also continue the injections at home, once or twice daily. Intravenous heparin requires blood testing, but subcutaneous (under the skin) injections of low molecular weight heparin do not.

Warfarin: As a DVT treatment, you take warfarin by pill once a day, beginning while you're still on heparin. Treatment may continue for three to six months or more. While on warfarin, you will need regular blood tests to ensure you have the correct dosage -- too little increases your clot risk, too much increases your risk for bleeding. Warfarin can also interact with other medicines, vitamins, or certain foods rich in vitamin K -- making regular monitoring even more important. If you're pregnant, your doctor will prescribe other types of treatment, because warfarin can cause birth defects.

Direct Xa inhibitors: Oral Xa inhibitors are the newer anti-clotting medicines that work as well as warfarin for most patients. They do not require regular blood test monitoring, changes in dose or special rules about diet. They may cause less bleeding than warfarin but have no antidote if bleeding becomes a problem. Apixaban, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban are all direct Xa inhibitors. 

Direct Thrombin Inhibitor: Dabigatran is an oral anticoagulant that works by blocking a certain substance (a clotting protein called thrombin) in your blood. This helps to keep blood flowing smoothly in your body.

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