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Information about deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (blood clots)
DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS EXPLAINEDBack to top
A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that has formed in one of the veins that lie deep inside the muscles of the leg. Most of the time, the ability of blood to clot is rather useful; it forms a plug that saves us from bleeding to death from a minor wound.
HOW A DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS (DVT) CAN CAUSE A PULMONARY EMBOLISM (PE)Back to top
Eventually the clot reaches a blood vessel too small to pass through and blocks the vessel. This effectively turns off the oxygen supply from part of the lung and is then called a pulmonary embolism.
This is also why it is so important that a DVT is treated quickly and effectively, and thereafter you receive adequate protection against any recurrence of either a DVT or PE.
Treatment is especially important if you have already had a PE in order to prevent recurrence. If you think that you are experiencing the symptoms of a PE you should contact your doctor immediately.
TREATING DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS (DVT) / PULMONARY EMBOLISM (PE) AND PREVENTING RECURRENCEBack to top
For many years the standard treatment of DVT and PE has been daily injections of one type of anticoagulant called a heparin, together with tablets of a second anticoagulant called a vitamin K antagonist, for the initial treatment period. Thereafter, a single treatment with warfarin. This standard treatment for DVT and PE is highly effective, but it does have a number of limitations. These include the need for injections, and the interaction of vitamin K antagonists (e.g warfarin) with a number of common foods and with other medicines.
Frequent blood tests are needed throughout the whole treatment period to find the appropriate dosage – a process known as monitoring.
ALTERNATIVE ORAL MEDICATIONBack to top
New oral medications are now available for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) and the prevention of recurrent DVT and PE that does not require frequent testing and dosage changes, and no significant food interactions.
Goldhaber SZ, Morrsion RB. Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis. Circulation 2002;106: 1436–38 • Spencer FA, Emery C, Lessard D, et al. The Worcester Venous Thromboembolism study: a population-based study of the clinical epidemiology of venous thromboembolism. J Gen Intern Med. 2006; 21: 722–27 • Goldhaber SZ. Pulmonary Embolism. N Engl J Med 1998; 339: 93–104 • Prandoni P, Lensing AW, Cogo A, et al. The long-term clinical course of acute deep venous thrombosis. Ann Intern Med 1996; 125(1): 1–7
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