What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that occurs in a vein. A vein is a type of blood vessel that carries oxygen-poor blood back to the heart (versus arteries, which are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body). DVT blood clots usually occur in the leg, though they can occur in the arm or other veins as well. The clot can block blood flow and lead to painful swelling in the affected limb. A DVT may also lead to a pulmonary embolism (PE), which happens when a DVT blood clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs.
DVTs are often caused by a change or slowing of blood flow. For example, your blood flow can slow down enough to form a clot when sitting on long flights, after surgery, or if you have to spend a long time in bed because you are sick or hospitalized. DVT blood clots are also more common in women who are pregnant or taking birth control or other hormonal drugs, overweight people, or people with cancer or autoimmune disorders. People with a family history of DVT are also at risk.

A DVT doesn’t just affect the limb where it occurs. There are complications of DVT that can have other serious effects on your health because it involves your cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular means “having to do with the heart and blood vessels.”


DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein in the body.

Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh. They also can occur in other parts of the body. A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus (EM-bo-lus). It can travel to an artery in the lungs and block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism (PULL-mun-ary Em-bo-lizm), or PE. PE is a very serious condition. It can damage the lungs and other organs in the body and cause death.

Warning Signs Of DVT & Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Blood clots cause more risk of PE in thighs.

Blood clots can also form in veins closer to the skin’s surface. However, these clots won’t break off and cause PEs. Many factors determine your risk five to 10 days after surgery. With today’s shorter hospital stays, PEs most likely occur when you’re recovering at home and away from the watchful eye of your health care providers. Therefore, it’s vital that lifesaving DVT prevention doesn’t end at the time of discharge – but continues at the home throughout your most vulnerable days. Your physician can prescribe DVT prevention that you can use at home, including both mechanical and pharmacological prophylaxis.

DVT Prevention: Healthy Lifestyle & Regular Checkups

To lower your risk and help prevent DVT, take these steps:

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