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What is Deep-Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep vein system. The danger is that the clot could break free from the vein wall and enter into the blood stream. The clot could then travel to the lungs and become a PE (pulmonary embolism), or to the brain and result in a stroke. DVT-related PE is the leading cause of preventable death in U.S. hospitals.

Who is at risk?
Anyone at any age can get DVT, but certain groups are at greater risk.

  • Those with prolonged immobility or no mobility
  • People with blood-clotting issues like those with a genetic disorder, or cancer patients undergoing surgical procedures
  • Patients with damage to their vein walls because of surgery or injury
  • Pregnant women
  • Seniors, 60 and older

This is, by no means, a complete list, and it’s important to remember that risk factors can be compounded. For example, combining an existing blood clot disorder with immobility can dramatically raise the risk of DVT.

What are the symptoms?
In most cases, the affected area— usually in the leg— will be painful, swollen or tender, with a redness or discoloration of the skin. DVT is a medical emergency, so any symptoms should be regarded as a DVT until proven otherwise, especially if you’re in a risk category. About half of the time, DVT has no symptoms at all.

Can DVT be prevented?
Yes! Because DVT can occur with little or no warning, the best action to take is prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these tips:

  • Understand your level of risk, and talk to your doctor about DVT, especially if you’re in a high-risk group.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet and don’t smoke.
  • Move around as soon as possible after surgery, illness or injury.
  • When traveling or sitting for more than four hours get up and walk around every few hours and exercise legs while sitting.

Online Resources

Learn more about venous disease and the available treatment options.