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Procedures for Deep Vein Thrombosis

You have been diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Depending on your health and the size and location of the blood clot, your doctor may recommend that you have one or more procedures. These may be needed to dissolve a large clot or to prevent a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism occurs when a piece of the clot lodges in a blood vessel in the lung. Your doctor can give you more information and 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 affected 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 are a candidate, your doctor will review the risks and benefits with you. In appropriate cases, thrombolysis is a very effective treatment for blood clots. However, it has a small risk for serious bleeding complications.

Angioplasty

This procedure may be used to widen the affected vein and improve blood flow. 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. This procedure may be recommended in certain cases. Your doctor can discuss whether or not this procedure would be beneficial for you.

Inferior Vena Cava Filter

An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is a small device used to trap an embolus in your lower body. The filter is delivered by a catheter and placed in your IVC, your body’s largest vein. Your health care provider may do this procedure if you have a blood clot in your leg. It may also be done before surgery, if you are at risk for a pulmonary embolism. An IVC filter is typically recommended for people who cannot take blood thinners to treat a DVT, or for people who have recurrent DVT despite taking blood thinners. There may be other reasons an IVC filter is recommended, which your doctor will discuss with you in detail.

 

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