Each year nearly two million Americans will develop this serious and sometimes life threatening medical condition.
Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is a common but serious medical condition that occurs in approximately two million Americans each year. DVT can occur when a blood clot forms in one of the body’s large veins, usually in the lower extremities, leading to either partially or completely blocked circulation.
Venous thrombosis in the lower limb can involve the superficial leg veins, the deep veins of the calf as well as any of the other veins in the lower extremities. Unlike the superficial veins just below the skin surface, most of the deep veins are surrounded by powerful muscles that contract to force blood back into the heart. When the body’s circulation slows down as a result of illness, injury, or prolonged inactivity, there may be a tendency for blood to accumulate or to “pool.”
A static pool of blood provides an ideal environment for clot formation. “A more serious complication of DVT is a pulmonary embolism (PE) which can occur when a fragment of a blood clot breaks loose from the wall of a vein and migrates to the lungs,” Says Dr. Sateesh Babu, Chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Westchester Medical Center. “Once there it can block a pulmonary artery or one of its branches. If not treated effectively or if left undiagnosed this condition can be fatal.”
Certain individuals may be at increased risk for developing DVT however, DVT can occur in almost anyone. Some risk factors or triggering events include:
- Certain heart or respiratory diseases
- Prior history of DVT
- Advanced age
- Acute medical illness with restricted mobility
- Patients undergoing major surgery, such as joint replacements, who remain immobile in bed after an operation
- Restricted mobility caused by long-distance travel
- Use of birth control pills
Signs and symptoms of DVT can include pain, swelling, tenderness, discoloration or redness of the affected area, and skin that is warm to the touch. However, as many as half of all DVT episodes produce minimal symptoms or are completely silent. “In cases of Pulmonary Embolism, symptoms can vary greatly depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots as well as your overall health,” added Dr. Babu.
Because a number of other conditions – including muscle strains, skin infections, and mild trauma display symptoms similar to those of DVT, the condition may be difficult to diagnose without specific tests.
Although the precise number of people affected by DVT is unknown, recent data from the American Heart Association indicates that DVT may affect as many as 1,000,000 Americans each year and of those who develop Pulmonary Embolism, more than 100,000 may die in the U.S. alone—more than breast cancer and AIDS combined. 10 to 30% of patients will die within one month of their diagnosis.
Often referred to as a “silent killer,” DVT can occur with little or no warning. If you have questions about DVT speak with your doctor or visit www.westchestermedicalcenter.com to find a physician. There are several tests available that have been shown to have special value for diagnosing DVT in patients experiencing symptoms. Your doctor can provide information on the benefits of these diagnostic tests.