What is deep vein thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of blood clots in veins that move blood from various parts of the body back to the heart and lungs. DVT is caused by a combination of factors: change in blood flow, injury to a vein, and/or development of a medical condition which increases the likelihood of forming blood clots.
People at increased risk of DVT include those who have been immobilized for long periods (bed rest, hospitalization, long plane flights); have had recent surgery, recent trauma, cancer, current infection, a history of previous DVT, or have a family history of DVT.
Deep vein thrombosis is often seen in the limbs, and most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs. A clot can block blood flow and cause blood congestion behind it. With this blockage holding back blood flow, patients experience swelling, pain, redness, warmth, and tenderness to the touch at the calves and thighs. Anyone experiencing these symptoms must see a physician immediately.
Interventional radiologists provide minimally invasive, catheter-based treatments that address conditions such as deep vein thrombosis. These less invasive methods are often less painful, better tolerated and have quicker recovery time than conventional surgery.
Mechanical treatment of deep vein thrombosis comes in various forms: mechanical thrombectomy, angioplasty, and stent placement. With each treatment, an interventional radiologist makes a small incision to access the femoral vein (the large vein in the leg). Guided by live x-rays, the doctor inserts a catheter (a thin plastic tube) through the vein to the DVT site.
With mechanical thrombectomy, the interventional radiologist guides a device through the femoral vein to the DVT site. Once there, the doctor uses the device to mechanically break up the clot into smaller pieces and remove the clot pieces.
Another option includes the use of angioplasty, in which a balloon is inserted into the vein containing the DVT and expanded in order to open up blood flow through the vein. The interventional radiologist also may opt to use a stent, a tiny expandable tube that props open the vein and prevents it from narrowing again.