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What Is Deep Venous Thrombosis?

Formation of a blood clot within muscular tissue causes deep venous thrombosis.
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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a potentially serious medical condition caused by venous blood clot formation within muscular tissue. Treatment for DVT generally involves medication along with the use of superficial or invasive mediums, such as supportive stockings and filter implantation, to prevent complications. If deep venous thrombosis symptoms are ignored or inappropriately treated, serious complications may develop and one’s chances for life-threatening conditions, including stroke, are dramatically increased.

Anytime someone remains inactive for an extended period of time, his or her circulation and soft tissue health can become jeopardized. Depending on the length or regularity of inactivity, blood clots can form within the deep, muscular tissue, presenting a threat for serious complication development. The prolonged presence of DVT contributes to vein damage and the onset of pronounced signs and symptoms. If a DVT-induced blood clot breaks loose, it may cause a pulmonary embolism or other life-threatening situation.

A diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis is generally made following a series of imaging tests that confirm the presence of a blood clot. Following a consultation and physical examination, symptomatic individuals may undergo an ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scan to evaluate circulation and the condition of the veins in the affected area. Rarely, a venography, which involves the introduction of a contrasting agent into the vein, may be used as a supplemental assessment tool to verify the presence of a blood clot.

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Deep venous thrombosis is a condition that most frequently appears in the legs. Clot formation can initially cause sensations of warmth and tenderness in the affected area. Due to the depth at which DVT-related clots form, aside from redness there are usually no visual signs that may indicate thrombophlebitis, or vein inflammation. It is not uncommon for individuals with DVT to experience achiness or a gradual intensification of pain in the affected area. Some individuals may remain asymptomatic, meaning they experience no discernible symptoms, until signs of a pulmonary embolism manifest, including blood-tinged sputum when coughing, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

Treatment for deep venous thrombosis is centered on preventing the development of complications. Individuals are generally prescribed a blood-thinning medication to prevent the maturation of existing clots and additional clot development. Support stockings are commonly used to reduce swelling and discomfort, as well as to promote proper circulation. Some DVT presentations necessitate the permanent placement of an implantable filter to protect the lungs from a pulmonary embolism. If filter placement is not feasible, more extensive surgery may be required to either remove the existing clot or a portion of the affected vein.

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