Learning about DVT & PE

A.  What is a DVT & PE
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) are often underdiagnosed and serious, but preventable medical conditions.  Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. These clots usually develop in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also occur in the arm. It is important to know about DVT because it can happen to anybody and can cause serious illness, disability, and in some cases, death. The good news is that DVT is preventable and treatable if discovered early.
The most serious complication of DVT happens when a part of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage called pulmonary embolism (PE). If the clot is small, and with appropriate treatment, people can recover from PE. However, there could be some damage to the lungs. If the clot is large, it can stop blood from reaching the lungs and can cause death.  http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/facts.html
B.Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) might be related to DVT itself or a PE. See your doctor right away if you have signs or symptoms of either condition. Both DVT and PE can cause serious, possibly life-threatening problems if not treated.

  • DVT:  They include:  (a) swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg; (b) pain or tenderness in the leg, which you may only when standing or walking; (c) increased warmth in the area of the leg that’s swollen or painful; (d) Red or discolored skin on the leg
  • PE:  Signs and symptoms of PE include: (a) unexplained shortness of breath; (b)  pain with deep breathing; (c) coughing up blood; (d) Rapid breathing and a fast heart rate.

Read more about signs and symptoms of DVT
C.  Diagnosis
DVT is often diagnosed using:

  •  Duplex ultrasound – it uses sound waves to evaluate the flow of blood in the veins
  • Venography- if the duplex ultrasound does not provide a clear diagnosis, a venogram (a type of x-ray) is used to look at the veins to see if the veins to see if clots are present
  • D-dimer – a blood test that can be used to rule out a clot.  MRI can also be used to diagnose a DVT although it is used less frenquently.  

PE is often diagnosed using the following:

  • Computerized tomography (CT scan) of the lung, a special type of x-ray that can provide pictures of structures inside the body
  • Pulmonary ventilation or perfusion scan, a special test looks at how the lung is working and if it is getting enough blood
  •  Pulmonary angiogram, the injection of a dye into the heart and then an x-ray, to look for clots in the lung.Read more about diagnosis of DVT and PE from the CDC

D.  Prevention
To lower your risk and help prevent DVT, take these steps:

  • Maintain an active lifestyle and exercise regularly — daily, if possible. Walking, swimming, and bicycling are all great activities
  • Manage your weight with exercise as well as by eating a healthy diet
  • If you smoke, quit!! Nicotine therapy (in patches, gums, or sprays) and support groups can make this much easier to do
  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly; take steps to lower it, if necessary
  •  Report any family or personal history of blood-clotting problems to your doctor
  • Discuss alternatives to birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy with your doctor
  • If you are on an airplane for more than 4 hours, either walk or do leg stretches in your seat and also stay well-hydrated and avoid alcohol consumption.

If you need surgery, your surgeon will review your medical history to help assess your risk for DVT and determine whether you need aggressive measures to prevent it. Your DVT risk may begin with becoming immobile and continue for several months following surgery. However, in some cases, your risk is greatest right after surgery and about 10 days afterward.
Researchers continue to look at the best ways to prevent DVT after surgery. For example, some studies show that using regional anesthesia instead of general anesthesia, when possible, can decrease your DVT risk.
Here are other measures your doctor may suggest to help prevent DVT:

  1. Take any blood thinners (anticoagulants) your doctor prescribes before or right after surgery. These may include heparin or any heparin-like anticoagulant, or warfarin, which is also called coumadin. You may receive some of these by injection or intravenously (IV)
  2. Wear a sleeve-like device on your legs during surgery to compress your legs and keep blood flowing through your veins;
  3. Elevate the foot of your bed
  4. Get up and move as soon as you can after surgery, or after you’ve been ill
  5. Take pain medicine as prescribed to make it easier to move around.
  6. Also to prevent DVT, do any leg exercises your doctor or other health care provider prescribes. These may include leg lifts and gentle foot and ankle exercises.

Read more regarding prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis
If you or someone you care about has been seriously injured because of a failure to diagnose and treat a DVT or PE, you should call the medical malpractice attorneys at Edwards & Ragatz, P.A. at (800) 366-1609 for your free consultation or you can fill out the contact us form on our website.

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