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What Are Blood Clots?

Do you travel? Or take birth control? Are you overweight? Have you ever injured your foot or leg? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the House Call Doctor's episode on Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)--which has the potential to become life-threatening--is for you. Learn what blood clots are, who gets them, and how to tell if you have one.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
August 7, 2014
Episode #162

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Risk Factors for DVT

There are some patients who are more prone towards getting blood clots, and these include those with:

  • A recent hospitalization (hence, a period of immobility)
  • Recent surgery on the hips/knees/legs/feet (again, where they were immobile)
  • A recent leg injury
  • Recent travel (again due to immobility)
  • Hormonal contraceptive use, especially ones containing estrogen
  • Use of other medications like hormone replacement therapy, tamoxifen, erythropoietin
  • Family or personal history of a blood clot disorder (protein C or S deficiency, deficiencies of antithrombin, Factor V Leiden or prothrombin gene mutation)
  • Pregnancy or postpartum
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Prior DVT or PE

Diagnosis of DVT

There are two common practices for ruling out a DVT:

  • A two-step process: Ordering a blood test called a D-Dimer, that is often elevated in those with a blood clot. However, it has a high false-positive risk, so if it’s positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a clot. Therefore, if it’s positive, the second step is to obtain an ultrasound of the leg. If the D-Dimer is negative, it’s a good indication that there is no clot.
  • Going straight to the ultrasound.

Treatment of DVT

Once an ultrasound shows a blood clot, patients are often placed on an anticoagulant (a medication to help thin out the blood) in order to dissolve the clot and prevent further formation of new ones. These drugs include possible injections or an oral medication (and often initially both.)  Duration of treatment depends on the patient’s risk factors and whether or not they’ve had a clot before.

If you have any risk factors for DVT formation, please talk to your doctor about how to best reduce your risk.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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