What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

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There are two sets of veins in the arms and legs: the superficial veins and the deep veins. A blood clot in a superficial vein of the arm or leg is known as superficial thrombophlebitis or superficial vein thrombosis (SVT)

When a blood clot develops in a deep vein of the arm or leg, it is known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Symptoms of DVT include swelling and pain of the arm or leg, discoloration, numbness, and in severe cases, lack of a pulse in the affected arm or leg.

There are 3 types of DVT based on the age of the blood clot. 

Acute DVT – this is a blood clot that is less than 14 days old. Acute DVT is generally treated with anticoagulation (blood thinners). These are the clots that are ideal for thrombectomy in select cases.

Subacute DVT – this is a blood clot that is between 14-30 days old. These clots are also typically treated with anticoagulation. Although not as ideal, these clots can also be treated with thrombectomy in select cases.


FIG 1: Acute DVT of the right leg

Chronic DVT – this is a blood clot that is more than 30 days old. These clots may or may not be treated with anticoagulation. Thrombectomy is generally not an option for chronic DVT but other procedures such as deep vein recanalization may be an option at experienced medical centers.

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FIG 2: Chronic DVT of the right leg

There are many risk factors for DVT including but not limited to recent surgery, prior history of DVT, and genetics. DVT is a very serious condition that must be treated immediately. If ignored, a DVT can break into pieces and travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE can cause sudden onset shortness of breath, chest pain, and/or death. However, if diagnosed early DVT/PE can be treated with blood thinning medicine or clot busting medicine. In some cases, minimally invasive procedures such as thrombectomy can be performed for those with severe symptoms.

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