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Your Healthy Family: What's a Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Posted at 7:29 AM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 07:29:53-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) impacts as many as 900,000 people in America. A DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein — typically in your legs — and it can be big enough to block blood flow.

Dr. Joseph Cipriano of Lumiere Cosmetic Vein Center in Cape Coral says a DVT can happen to anyone at any age, but there are certain risk factors. He said he sees at least 2-3 patients a day, for a DVT screening.

There are several causes for DVT, including immobility.

"When you're sitting still and you're not moving as much, your blood has a tendency to not be mobile. Like any time your blood isn't mobile, it wants to clot because that's it's natural process," Dr. Cipriano said. "So think about people that are on a flight, or a long car trip, sitting still for long periods of time. That clot can form easily just because of the fact that we're not moving.”

He also said people who are overweight or obese have a harder time with blood return, and are prone to DVTs.

"Patients that have had surgery on their knees, hips, orthopedic procedures where they can't move as easily, they're more prone to it," Dr. Cipriano said.

He said doctors doing these procedures, have to prescribe anticoagulants — or blood thinners — to patients to prevent a deep vein thrombosis. If Dr. Cipriano detects a DVT in one of his patients, he immediately starts those patients on blood thinners.

"We have anticoagulants here in the office. I will give it to them, they will take it in front of us, I will document that they've received their sample and they've been immediately anticoagulated," he said.

The patients are on those blood thinners for three months.

Symptoms of a DVT include swelling in your legs, skin redness, pain, and difficulty walking. But Dr. Cipriano said some people may have no symptoms at all.

"They didn't immediately see signs of swelling, pain, edema because blood was able to circumnavigate the clot,” Dr. Cipriano said.

In a study he did, Dr. Cipriano said they were taking random ultrasounds of people's legs, looking for DVTs.

"Our incidence of DVTs that we found were upwards of 35 percent. And that was with people having no symptoms, we actually saw clots within the deep system," he said.

On their own, he said DVTs are usually not life-threatening, but they can become dangerous without you even knowing it.

“This is where the vein or venous problems can be very insidious. They smolder in the background. When this vein’s clot breaks free and moves, it's no longer labeled a DVT. At that point, it becomes an embolus,” Dr. Cipriano said.

That embolus, or clot, can then move into your lungs and cut off blood flow and oxygen to your lung tissue. This is called a Pulmonary Embolism, or PE.