Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) And Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Deep Vein Thrombosis, also referred to as “DVT”, is a serious  medical condition that is usually avoidable  that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, most commonly in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis but can also occur in the upper extremity (the arm). More than one-third of people who develop DVT develop clots that can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which is commonly referred to as “PE”, which can be fatal. PE occurs when a part of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. If the blockage is small and timely diagnosed and properly treated, most people recover from PE with little or no damage to the lungs. However, a large clot can prevent blood from reaching the lungs, which is often fatal. 

It is estimated that annually between 300,000 to 600,000 people in the U.S. have DVT/PE. About one-third of people with DVT/PE will experience a recurrence of DVT/PE within 10 years. About one-third of people diagnosed with DVT/PE  die within one month. And one-third of people with DVT will suffer long-term complications such as swelling, pain, discoloration, and scaling  in the body part affected by DVT, which can become disabling. Sudden death occurs as the first symptom of PE in about 25% of people who have a PE.

Source: CDC

Unfortunately, DVT/PE are too often misdiagnosed and/or diagnosed too late.

Diagnosis Of DVT

DVT is often diagnosed by duplex ultrasound (a non-surgical and painless method of using penetrating sound waves to evaluate blood flow in the veins), by venography (a type of x-ray known as a venogram that looks for clots) , and also by a blood test known as D-dimer.

Diagnosis Of PE

PE can be detected by computerized tomography (CT scan), which is a type of x-ray that is converted to pictures of the lungs, by profusion scan that shows the function and blood flow of the lungs, and by pulmonary angiogram, in which dye is injected into the body to look for clots. Unfortunately, as stated above, the first sign of PE is death in 25% of people who have PE.

Risk Factors For Developing DVT

Although anyone can develop DVT, there are certain risk factors that include injury to a vein caused by a bone fracture, serious muscle injury, or major surgery; reduced blood flow due to confinement or immobilization (including sitting for long periods with no movement such as experienced on long flights); increase in estrogen caused by the use of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy,  and pregnancy (up to 6 weeks after giving birth); certain chronic medical illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer and its treatment, and inflammatory bowel disease; and other risk factors such as previous personal or family history of DVT or PE, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, a catheter in a central vein, and inherited clotting disorders.

Steps To Reduce Risk Of DVT/PE

Move around as soon as possible after having been confined to bed, such as after surgery, illness, or injury; use compression stockings and/or anticoagulants, if recommended by you physician; if sitting for long periods of time, such as when traveling for more than four hours, get up and walk around at least every 2 to 3 hours; exercise your legs while sitting by raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor,  raising and lowering your toes while keeping your heels on the floor, and tightening and releasing your leg muscles; wear loose-fitting clothes; drink plenty of water while avoiding caffeine and alcohol; and, get regular exercise, keep your weight at the recommended level, and quit smoking.

Symptoms Of DVT And PE

About half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the affected part of the body include swelling, pain, tenderness, and redness of the skin. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

You can have a PE without any symptoms of a DVT. Signs and symptoms of PE include difficulty breathing, faster than normal or irregular heart beat, chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing, anxiety, coughing up blood, and very low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting. If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.

Source: CDC

If your deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) was misdiagnosed, late-diagnosed, or not diagnosed at all and you were injured as a result, visit our website to be connected with local medical malpractice lawyers who may be able to investigate your medical malpractice claim and represent you if negligent medical treatment caused your injuries. You can also reach us toll free at 800-295-3959.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 10:13 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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