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Deep Vein Thrombosis: Knowing the Signs can Save a Life

October 26, 2018

By Dr. Carissa Webster-LakeHartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute

Events such as a hospitalization, pregnancy, childbirth, or trauma to the lower leg can cause deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT.

DVT occurs when blood clots form in a deep vein in the body, most often in the lower leg or thigh. A blood clot can break off and travel through the body, causing a stroke, a heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism – a blockage in an artery of a lung. DVT is a serious emergency.

A history of smoking, certain medical treatments, advanced age, and situations where someone may be sedentary for long periods of time (like plane rides that are more than four hours), can also lead to DVT.

About 50 percent of people with DVT recognize the symptoms, which may include pain and swelling in a leg, ankle, or foot; discolored skin over the clot; or in the case of a pulmonary embolism, chest pain, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, irregular heart beat, or coughing up blood.

Seeking immediate medical attention if you have a blood clot is most important. If a clot is suspected, your doctor will order an ultrasound and review your medical history. Patients with DVT receive drugs to break down the existing clot (known as thrombolytics) and stop new ones from happening (known as anticoagulants or thrombin inhibitors). Patients at risk for a pulmonary embolism may also receive a vena cava filter to block clots from reaching the lung.

The Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) in New Britain is fully prepared to treat complex vascular events like DVT. The HOCC care team includes board-certified cardiologists, specialized nurses, and other specially trained staff members who work closely with other departments to provide the most coordinated care. HOCC is home to the most advanced technology, like the new hybrid procedure room, a state-of-the-art suite that allows vascular surgeons to perform procedures guided by real-time images.

To prevent blood clots, stay active or avoid prolonged periods of sitting.  If you have risk factors for DVT, follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include prescriptions or compression stockings. Quitting smoking, regular exercise, and loose-fitting clothing are other ways to prevent blood clots.

If you’re seeking services for heart or vascular problems, Hartford HealthCare’s Heart & Vascular Institute can help. Click here for more information.