Blood Clots: Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment

  • Treatment

    If you suspect you may have DVT , seek the attention of a doctor immediately. Go to an emergency room if you have chest pain and shortness of breath, a sign that the blood clot has traveled from your leg to your lungs, called a pulmonary embolism.

    If you have DVT, you may be hospitalized for one to five days for treatment with both intravenous and oral medication. Your doctor will decide which medicine is the best for you.

    You will probably need to make medication for at least 6 months following your hospital discharge. Some people take medication for the rest of their lives to prevent another DVT. Long-term anticoagulation therapy requires close monitoring of the levels of medication in your blood. You will need to follow up closely with your doctor or with another healthcare provider to make sure you are taking the correct dose of medication.

    Your doctor may limit your activities until your symptoms are relieved.

    When DVT is first diagnosed, your doctor may limit your activities until your symptoms are relieved, which may reduce swelling and prevent the clot from breaking off and traveling through the bloodstream.

    Avoid prolonged sitting or standing in one position after being treated for DVT.

    To reduce the risk of further episodes of DVT, avoid prolonged sitting or standing in one position. When you find yourself in an inactive or confined situation, flex your legs and feet periodically. Support stockings may also lower the risk of future DVT.

    Apply heat to the affected area to help relieve the pain.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    Clot-trapping filters can help in some circumstances. If you have DVT but cannot take anticoagulant medications, or if DVT occurs while you are already taking anticoagulants, a special, fine-meshed screen filter may be placed in the main vein that connects the lower body to the heart (inferior vena cava) to reduce the chances of a DVT going to the heart and lungs. This filter acts as a trap for blood clots that break off from the lower body, so that they cannot enter the heart or lungs. The filter does not reduce the chance of a DVT forming, however, so if you are able to take anticoagulant medications, you should continue to do so after the surgery.

    If you are pregnant and have DVT, you will be treated with medication that is safe if pregnancy.

    If you are a woman who is pregnant or has had a baby within the last few months, you may be predisposed to DVT. If you have symptoms suggestive of DVT while pregnant or in the first few months after childbirth, contact your doctor immediately.

    Do not smoke if you are taking birth control pills or estrogen. If you are a woman who is taking birth control pills or estrogen hormone replacement therapy, you should not smoke cigarettes, as smoking will significantly increase your risk of DVT.

    If you have previously had DVT, you are at increased risk of having another DVT in the future. To reduce the chances of repeat DVT, avoid prolonged bed rest, sitting, or standing. If you find yourself in an inactive or confined situation, flex your legs and feet periodically. Compression support stockings (see above) may also lower the risk of further DVT. Your doctor may also decide to put you on anticoagulant medication such as warfarin indefinitely to lower your risk of future DVT.

    In most cases, DVT can be treated with medications to prevent more clot from forming, allowing your body to dissolve the clot. Of those people treated with anticoagulant medications for six months, about 5% to 10% have a repeat DVT after treatment. Although the best duration of anticoagulant treatment is unknown, in most cases your treatment will continue for at least three to six months for a first DVT, and perhaps longer if this is a repeat DVT.

    Although most people recover after DVT, some tissue damage to the veins may remain. After an episode of DVT, the affected veins may be damaged, even after the clot is dissolved. This may cause long-term swelling in that leg, and may increase the risk of future DVT. Compression support stockings usually help in these cases.

    Age and prior medical history of blood clots are risk factors for recurrent DVT. The majority of people with DVT are over the age of 60. As people age, the condition of their heart and blood vessels changes, which may predispose them to DVT.

    Patients receiving treatment for DVT must be monitored closely by a physician. People with DVT who are being treated with medication need regular monitoring of their blood levels of these medications. Monitoring is usually done more frequently at first, such as once or twice per week, and less frequently as medication levels and dosing stabilize.

    Report any medication side effects or complications to your physician promptly. Patients receiving anticoagulation medication are at higher risk of bleeding. If you are taking these medications and you experience significant bleeding that will not stop, go immediately to the emergency room.

    Report increased leg swelling or discomfort, or new symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain to your physician promptly. While treatment with medications is usually effective, in some cases the DVT may still get worse, or a pulmonary embolism may still occur. If your leg swelling or other leg symptoms are worsening, contact your doctor. If you have new symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, this may represent a pulmonary embolus. A pulmonary embolus is a medical emergency, and you should contact your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room.

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