United Hospital Center: Deep Vein Thrombosis – Part 1

Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT occurs when blood clots form in the deep veins of the body, usually the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but these can also occur in other areas of the body, such as the abdomen and arms.

A Pulmonary Embolism or PE occurs when a blood clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. A PE can be deadly. It is important to learn about this condition to protect yourself.

The precise number of people affected by DVT and PE is unknown, although as many as 900,000 people could be affected each year in the United States. However, one-third of people with DVT and PE will have a recurrence within ten years.

There are many factors that put you at risk for a blood clot, as everyone is at risk for DVT. These could include:

  • having a major trauma
  • having had a blood clot in the past
  • having cancer
  • being age 55 and older
  • sitting during travel for longer than 4 hours
  • having a personal or family history of blood clots
  • being immobile (such as being on bed rest or difficulty with walking)
  • pregnancy, using estrogen containing medications such as birth control pills, patches, and hormone replacement therapy
  • being obese

Almost half of all blood clots occur either during or soon after discharge from a hospital stay or following a surgery. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of developing a blood clot.

Unfortunately, the statistics are not good concerning the long-term effects of DVT. Among people who have had a DVT, one-third to one-half will have long-term complications (post-thrombotic syndrome) such as swelling, pain, discoloration, and scaling in the affected limb.
Estimates suggest that sixty to one hundred thousand Americans will die of DVT/PE (also called venous thromboembolism). Ten to thirty percent of people will die within one month of diagnosis. Sudden death is the first symptom in about one-quarter of people who have a PE. Approximately five to eight percent of the U.S. population has one of several genetic risk factors, also known as inherited thrombophilia, in which a genetic defect can be identified that increases the risk for thrombosis.

To learn more about Deep Vein Thrombosis, watch Part 2 of this series with Brenda Conch, UHC Director of Education

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