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Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Clinical Heart and Vascular Center

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a potentially life-threatening condition in which blood clots form in leg veins. UT Southwestern Medical Center’s vascular specialists and interventional radiologists have the knowledge and experience needed to accurately diagnose and effectively treat DVT.

The Most Advanced Therapies for Treating DVT

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops in one or more of the veins deep inside the body, generally in the legs. The condition can cause leg pain, but it often occurs without any symptoms.

Untreated, DVT can progress and damage the valves of the leg veins, which eventually leads to ongoing lower extremity swelling and skin breakdown. Blood clots can also travel up the leg veins to the major veins supplying the lungs, causing a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.

Effectively treating DVT is a priority for us, and we are dedicated to providing attentive and compassionate care combined with the most advanced medical therapies available for the treatment of this condition. 

Our team of vascular specialists, interventional radiologists, and physician assistants coordinates a patient’s complete care – from imaging evaluation to post-procedure follow-up – maintaining a high level of communication with patients throughout the process. In addition, we coordinate closely with experts from across the UT Southwestern community when necessary.

Symptoms of DVT

Deep vein thrombosis occurs without symptoms about half the time. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Swelling in the leg
  • Red, discolored, or white skin
  • A cord in a leg vein that can be felt
  • Rapid heart beat (tachycardia)
  • Slight fever
  • Warm skin
  • More visible surface veins
  • Dull ache, tightness, tenderness, or pain in the leg (might occur only while walking or standing)

DVT can develop if a patient has certain medical conditions that affect how the blood clots, or if the patient is sitting still for a long time, such as while traveling by car or airplane.

Diagnosis

Our specialists will thoroughly evaluate a patient’s medical history and symptoms. Additional diagnostic procedures for DVT can include:

  • Duplex ultrasound: Involves using high-frequency sound waves to look at the speed of blood flow and the veins. Occasionally a blood clot can be visualized by ultrasound. This procedure is noninvasive and involves placing ultrasound gel on the affected area and then moving a handheld device across it. A picture of the blood flow is displayed on a monitor. Duplex ultrasound is the most commonly performed diagnostic test for DVT.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It is particularly effective in diagnosing DVT in the pelvis.
  • Venogram: Uses X-rays and intravenous (IV) contrast dye to visualize the veins. Contrast dye causes the blood vessels to appear opaque on the X-ray image, allowing the physician to visualize the blood vessels being evaluated. 

Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis

Our goal for treatment is to prevent the clot from growing, to ensure that it doesn’t break off and travel through the veins to the lungs, and to help reduce the possibility of another blood clot forming. 

Our vascular specialists provide the treatment necessary to help ensure that deep vein thrombosis cannot move to other areas, such as the brain, heart, and lungs, where it can cause further damage.

Treatments might include anti-coagulant treatments delivered through the vein, as well as oral medications.

Our interventional radiologists also offer a minimally invasive treatment that involves image-guided placement of a catheter in the clotted vein, followed by breaking and dissolving the clot and reestablishing blood flow in the leg. We can also place a mesh filter in the main vein of the abdomen, which prevents clots from going to the chest and causing a pulmonary embolism. This filter can be taken out when the clot in the leg has dissolved.

Clinical Trials

Patients who have been diagnosed with DVT might be able to participate in the ATTRACT study. National physician experts in DVT treatment are currently enrolling patients to determine the best treatment for blood clots. Contact the Interventional Radiology Department at 214-645-8300 for more information.

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