Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the large veins in the leg or pelvis. DVT isn't life-threatening, but it can lead to serious health problems if the clot travels to the lung artery, creating a pulmonary embolism.

There are three main causes of DVT: 

  • Irritated or inflamed inner vein lining
  • Blood that quickly clots
  • Slow blood flow through a vein deep in the leg or pelvic area

Are You at Risk?

You may be at risk for DVT if you:

  • Are on bed rest during or after an illness or major medical procedure
  • Have cancer or undergoing cancer treatment
  • Are confined or unable to walk
  • Have a family history of blood clots
  • Are obese
  • Have respiratory or heart failure
  • Smoke
  • Are pregnant
  • Receive hormone therapy

Symptoms of DVT

Many people with DVT have no symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they may include:

  • Leg pain or tenderness in calf muscles
  • Leg swelling
  • Changes in skin color on the leg or foot 

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Cough

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

At UVA, we can diagnose you by using these tests:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood test
  • Venogram or phlebogram

For less severe cases of DVT, your doctor may recommend compression stockings and anticoagulant medication to prevent blood clots from forming. Patients who can't take medication may have a thrombectomy, where the clot is removed through a small groin incision.

Thrombolysis treats more severe cases of DVT. Your doctor inserts a catheter in the clot's location and administers medication to break up the clot. You'll need to take anticoagulant medication after the procedure to prevent clots from forming.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.