The main goals of treatment for
deep vein thrombosis are:
If you have symptoms of
deep vein thrombosis, testing will begin immediately
to find out whether you have a blood clot in your leg. Or, if a blood
clot is discovered in your lung (pulmonary embolism), your doctor may
test you for deep vein thrombosis.
When you are diagnosed with
deep vein thrombosis, treatment begins immediately to reduce the risk that the
blood clot will grow or that a piece of the clot might break loose and flow to
the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Early treatment also reduces the risk of
thrombosis is usually treated with
anticoagulant medicines: heparin and
warfarin (such as Coumadin). Heparin is given through
a vein (intravenously, or IV) or as an injection, and it acts immediately.
Warfarin is given by mouth, and it takes several days to become effective.
Often both medicines are started at the same time, then heparin is discontinued
after warfarin becomes effective. Some people may take
low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) long term instead
If your doctor thinks a clot needs to be dissolved right away, you might get thrombolytic therapy. Your doctor will inject a medicine into the clot using a needle or a tube called a catheter.
Heparin. Two types of heparin are
available for treatment of deep vein thrombosis.
Unfractionated heparin (UH) is given in the hospital,
whereas low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) can be self-injected at home, which
usually is more convenient. Low-molecular-weight heparin usually does not
require periodic blood tests to monitor its effects.
Warfarin. If you have a blood clot in your upper (proximal)
leg vein, you will likely need to take warfarin for at least 3 months. After 3 months and depending on your
risk factors, your doctor may recommend that you continue on lower doses of
warfarin on an ongoing basis to prevent deep vein clots from
Typically, if you have a blood clot in the
lower (distal) deep leg veins (in your calf), you will need to take medicine to
prevent more blood clots (anticoagulant medicine) for at least 3 months. The
length of time will vary based on your own health. Sometimes your doctor won't
start this medicine right away. He or she may wait 24 to 48 hours to see if
your blood clot is growing. For symptom relief, your doctor may recommend a
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as
Your doctor may also recommend that you elevate your
leg when possible, take walks, and wear
compression stockings. These measures may help reduce
the pain and swelling that can occur with deep vein thrombosis.