DVT can be hard to detect

Published 1:45 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It may be more serious than a cramp in your calf or soreness from the hike you went on with your friends over the weekend.

“Deep Vein Thrombosis is the clotting of veins which occurs in the deep veins of the legs and in upper extremities,” Dr. Michele Friday, the director of the vascular lab at Our Lady Bellefonte Hospital, and an interventional cardiologist, said. “It can be caused by anything from predisposition to clotting disorders to immobilization to most frequently, post-operatively.”

According to the Coalition to Prevent DVT, it occurs in two million Americans a year and 600,000 are hospitalized from its effects.

She said patients with cancer, people who take long journeys and those who have suffered from blood clotting disorders are at a higher risk of suffering from DVT.

Friday said tenderness, redness, swelling and warmth in one leg are symptoms of DVT and should cause high suspicion.

Duplex venous ultrasounds, contrast injection into the veins and MRIs of the extremities are the three methods of diagnosis, she said.

“DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism,” Friday said. “It is when the clot travels to the lung. It could kill you, but it only happens in five to 20 percent of the people with DVT.”

She said some clots are not as harmful because of their small size and others are treated through blood thinners.

A person who may be getting ready to have orthopedic surgery, or hospitalized and already has a history of blood clotting may be treated with compression devices on the legs to keep the blood flowing.

Friday said DVT is not common in this area, but there are enough cases that local hospitals should be raising awareness.

Women who are pregnant, taking birth control or hormone replacements are high risk as are people who have recently suffered a leg injury, she said.

Obesity does not lead to DVT, but immobilization from obesity does, Friday said.

Anyone who experiences the symptoms and has not experienced any trauma to their legs should contact a physician immediately.

She said anyone who is taking blood thinners should have their International Normalized Ratio checked to be sure levels remain between 2.0 and 3.0 to be sure their blood is not too thick, making it clot or too thin and the patient is at risk of bleeding from other places.

For more information on DVT log on to www.cdc.gov.