What Is DVT?

What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (throm-BO-sis), or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together.

Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh. They also can occur in other parts of the body.
A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus (EM-bo-lus). It can travel to an artery in the lungs and block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism (PULL-mun-ary EM-bo-lizm), or PE. PE is a very serious condition. It can damage the lungs and other organs in the body and cause death.

Blood clots in the thighs are more likely to break off and cause PE than blood clots in the lower legs or other parts of the body. Blood clots also can form in veins closer to the skin's surface. However, these clots won't break off and cause PE.Many factors determine your risk for DVT, but studies show you’re at highest risk five to 10 days after surgery.2 With today’s shorter hospital stays, that’s most likely when you’re recovering at home, away from the watchful eye of your health care providers. Therefore, it’s vital that life-saving DVT prevention doesn’t end at the time of discharge after surgery — but continues at home throughout your most vulnerable days. Your physician can prescribe DVT prevention that you can use at home, including both mechanical and pharmacological prophylaxis.

Warning Signs

Signs of DVT

  • Pain or tenderness in an extremity of groin
  • Sudden swelling of the leg
  • Noticeably warm skin
  • Change in the color of the leg

Signs of Related Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain while breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Coughing with blood
  • Unexplained anxiety
  • Sweating

If you suspect you have DVT, call your surgeon or healthcare provider immediately. If you suspect you have a PE, call 911 or have someone take you to an emergency room.

The video below shows how a DVT is formed.