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​What is Venous Thromboembolism (or VTE)?


Venous Thromboembolism or VTE for short is the condition of having a blood clot begin in a vein. Two types of VTE threaten the health of 300,000-600,000 Americans each year, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). Deep vein thrombosis is a clot that begins within the deep vein system of the body. Pulmonary embolism occurs when that blood clot finds its way out of the vein and travels to the lungs, blocking the blood supply to the rest of the body. In both conditions, deep leg veins are often to blame, but other veins and veins in the arms, especially, are also culprits some of the time.

Who is at Risk of VTE?

Deep vein thrombosis is most commonly initiated when the blood flow changes, slows or becomes sedentary. Surgery, cancer, immobilization and being hospitalized are all common reasons DVT develops. In woman, the use of contraception or menopause supplements or medication and pregnancy itself can contribute to the condition. It's highly unlikely for children to get VTE and it usually plagues those over 60 years of age. People who are especially vulnerable to VTE are those who are obese, or have pre-existing conditions that make them weak. In some rare cases, people can blame genetics when their blood is thicker than average because they create too many blood cells from their bone marrow.

How can VTE be Treated?

VTE and blood clots are a serious threat to your health. Early diagnosis and treatment are of the utmost importance in cases of VTE. Gratefully, VTE is also a highly preventable cause of death in hospital settings. Although it's not gained the recognition it might deserve as a wider spread public health issue, doctors do take notice of those who are at higher risk and can take measures to prevent 1 in 10 patients from developing VTE and prevent 10 in 200 deaths associated with the condition after it's occurred.

Warning Signs

It's important for patients and doctors alike to know the warning signs of a possible blood clot. Because most cases of VTE begin in the leg, we'll put emphasis on checking the legs but know that blood clots and VTE cases can occur from any vein in the body. Leg pain and swelling are of the first warning signs that a blood clot has formed. Red discoloration or streaks forming on the skin, as well a site feeling warm to the touch are all possible signs of blood clotting. PE, pulmonary embolism, signs may come on suddenly after earlier stages and need to be acted upon fast because they are signs that a clot has left the vein and is now traveling to major organs to wreak havoc. These warning signs are shortness of breath, light-headedness, fast heart rate, and chest pain, usually beneath the rib cage somewhere. If you experience any of the above symptoms you should visit an emergency room or make an appointment with your doctor to rule out the serious condition that is VTE. The first test that you may complete is a blood test that can show changes caused by blood clotting. If DVT is suspected, an ultrasound of the leg often is enough to diagnose a blood clot in the leg and prescribe a treatment plan. If VTE is suspected, CT scans are often the most popular method of viewing veins that have been injected with a differentiating dye that quickly points out any blockages.

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Be Proactive!

Patients can also be proactive about their own care if they know they are susceptible to VTE and blood clots. Conservative treatment options include taking medication to thin the blood, prevent clots from forming, and wearing support products that stimulate circulation such as medical stockings or braces. Both prevention measures, the medication and support, are a winning combination to help ensure your future free of complication. Getting out of bed, and possibly taking advantage of physical therapy, is also advised. A good support product will help you achieve this goal by keeping your muscle and tissues warm during movement and encouraging proper form. Popular medications for the condition, called anti-coagulants, may be prescribed by your doctor over a period of months to actually break up or dissolve blood clots altogether. These medications can be administered by needle, an oral medication, or with a catheter that penetrates the exact site of your blood clot.

When Does VTE Need More Invasive Treatment?

In the most life threatening cases, surgery may be opted. Surgeries differ. One option is to drain major arteries before they send a blood clot and cause complication to a major organ. Other options are to remove the blood clot itself from the body, or inject agents into the blood clot hoping to dissolve it before causing further damage.

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