Did you know that March is Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month? This campaign is aimed at raising awareness among consumers, healthcare professionals, and policy-makers about DVT and pulmonary embolus (PE) blood clots on national, as well as local levels. For those of you who don’t know, DVT is a serious medical condition that results from a blood clot in the vein. These kinds of blood clots are normally found in the lower leg, but they can also occur in the arm and shoulder veins as well. The biggest risk of DVT is that a piece of the clot could break free and directly enter the blood stream. Since the blood in your veins travels straight to your lungs in order to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, the clot (now called embolus) will cause the vein to enlarge until it reaches your lungs, where the passageway narrows. PE can result when the blood clot blocks the vein and sufficiently stops further blood flow through the lung.
DVT mainly affects the larger veins in the lower extremities (like the lower leg, thigh, or calf). Normally, they are only on one side of your body. Symptoms include sudden loss of breath and dizziness. The blood clot can also cause noticeable redness and warmth on your skin, leg pain, and swelling.
According to the American Heart Association, DVT occurs in about 2 million Americans every year. Since they can be so immediately fatal, pulmonary embolus clots are responsible for an estimated 300,000 deaths in the U.S. per year, which is more than breast cancer and AIDS combined. With such frightening statistics, it is important to learn and spread the word about DVT and PE.
Although this condition can be prevented and treated with anticoagulant medications, our staff specializes in catheter-directed thrombolysis (CDT), which is a minimally invasive treatment that dissolves these troublesome blood clots directly in the blood vessel. By this procedure, x-ray imaging allows the physician to insert a specialized catheter into an affected vein in order to guide it to the blockage site. Once contact is made, the blood clot can then be dissolved by delivering either medication or a mechanical device to the affected area in order to break up the clot.
In addition to this process, we can also easily diagnose DVT by performing a duplex ultrasonography exam, which is a non-invasive procedure that allows us to visualize the flow of blood within an artery using color-doppler imaging.