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Procedures for Deep Vein Thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a large vein deep inside a leg, arm, or other parts of the body. The clot can separate from the vein and travel to the lungs. This forms a pulmonary embolism (PE). In the lungs, the clot can cut off the flow of blood. This is a medical emergency and may cause death.

Health care providers use the term venous thromboembolism (VTE) to describe the 2 conditions, DVT and PE. They use the term VTE because the 2 conditions are very closely related. And, because their prevention and treatment are closely related.

Most often, a blood clot is treated with medicines that help to dissolve the clot. They also help to prevent pulmonary embolism and other complications. But this is not true for everyone. Depending on your health, and the size and location of the blood clot, your health care provider may recommend that you have 1 or more procedures. Procedures to treat blood clots include thrombolysis, angioplasty, and vena cava filter placement. Your health care provider can give you more information about treating your blood clot, including information about these and other treatments. He or she can also answer any questions you may have.

image of a catheter releasing medication in a blood clot

 

image of a catheter with a balloon inside of  a vein

 

an inferior vena cava filter trapping an embolus in a vein

Thrombolysis

This procedure is used to dissolve a large clot. A catheter (thin tube) is inserted into the vein. X-rays are taken of the vein and the clot. Then, clot-dissolving medication is delivered to the clot through the catheter. In some cases, a mechanical device is also used to break up the clot. This procedure is not recommended for everyone with a DVT. If you might have this treatment, your health care provider will review the risks and benefits with you. In some people, thrombolysis is a very effective treatment for blood clots. However, it does carry the risk for serious bleeding complications.

Angioplasty

This procedure may be used to widen the affected vein and improve blood flow. This is done after the blood clot has been dissolved. Narrowing (stenosis) of the vein can block blood flow and make it more likely for a blood clot to form. A catheter with a balloon on the end is inserted into the affected vein. X-rays are used to position the catheter. Once the catheter is in place, the balloon is inflated to widen your vein. In some cases, a wire mesh device, called a stent, may also be placed in your vein to help keep it open. You and your health care provider can discuss whether or not this procedure might help you.

Inferior vena cava filter

An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is a small device used to trap an embolus in your lower body and prevent it from traveling to your lungs. A long, narrow tube (catheter) is put into 1 of your veins. It is used to place the filter in your vena cava, your body’s largest vein. Your health care provider will also discuss the risks and benefits of this procedure if recommended for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: Petersen, Sheralee, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 5/15/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.