What are the causes of deep vein thrombosis?
Blood is meant to flow; if it becomes stagnant there is a potential for it to clot. The blood in veins is constantly forming microscopic clots that are routinely broken down by the body. If the balance of clot formation and resolution is altered, significant clotting can occur. A thrombus can form if one, or a combination of the following situations is present.
Prolonged travel and sitting, such as long airplane flights ("economy class syndrome"), car, or train travel
Trauma to the lower leg with or without surgery or casting
Pregnancy, including 6-8 weeks post partum
Hypercoagulability (coagulation of blood faster than usual)
Medications (for example, birth control pills, estrogen)
Polycythemia (increased number of red blood cells)
Trauma to the vein
Fracture to the leg
Complication of an invasive procedure of the vein
What are the complications of deep vein thrombosis?
Pulmonary embolism is the major complication of deep vein thrombosis. It can present with chest pain and shortness of breath and is a life-threatening condition. More than 90% of pulmonary emboli arise from the legs.
Post-phlebitic syndrome can occur after a deep vein thrombosis. The affected leg can become chronically swollen and painful with skin color changes and ulcer formation around the foot and ankle.
Can deep vein thrombosis be prevented?
As is the case with most medical illnesses, prevention is of prime importance. Minimizing risk factors is key to deep vein thrombosis prevention.
In the hospital setting, the staff works hard to minimize the potential for clot formation in immobilized patients. Compression stockings are routinely used. Surgery patients are out of bed walking (ambulatory) earlier and low dose heparin or enoxaparin is being used for deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis (measures taken to prevent DVT).
For those who travel, it is recommended that they get up and walk every couple of hours during a long trip.
Compression stockings may be helpful in preventing future deep vein thrombosis formation in patients with a previous history of a clot.
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