What is the Connection Between Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism?

Mary McMahon

Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are closely linked, because a clot in one of the deep veins of the body can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. A patient with deep vein thrombosis needs to receive a careful evaluation to determine the risk of an embolism so a doctor can come up with the most appropriate treatment option. It is important to receive treatment for symptoms like sharp pain in the legs, to identify and manage clots as early as possible.

Compression stockings can reduce the risk of getting blood clots in the lower legs by supporting blood circulation of the limbs.
Compression stockings can reduce the risk of getting blood clots in the lower legs by supporting blood circulation of the limbs.

In deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of the body. The connection between deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism is a particular problem in the case of veins in the thigh and groin, while clots in other deep veins pose less of a risk. People can form clots because of clotting disorders, prolonged immobility, or injury. People like hospitalized patients or frequent travelers on long haul flights are at the most risk of developing clots.

The blood clot formed in a deep vein thrombosis can lead to a pulmonary embolism.
The blood clot formed in a deep vein thrombosis can lead to a pulmonary embolism.

An awareness of the link between deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism has led the medical community to take steps to prevent clotting in the deep veins of the body. This included encouraging patients to be as active as possible, staying hydrated on planes, and taking care to wear loose, comfortable clothing. For patients who cannot move because of serious injuries or diseases, regular evaluation to check for clotting and other problems is important. Doctors can diagnose deep vein thrombosis with ultrasound to check for clots.

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Varicose veins may be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis.
Varicose veins may be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis.

The risk with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism is that if a clot breaks off, it can travel into the lungs. It may partially or completely block the lungs, leading to shortness of breath and severe medical distress. The patient's blood cannot receive proper oxygenation because of the clot, and an embolism in the wrong place can be fatal within a very short period of time. In a patient with a known clot, doctors recommend careful monitoring to identify the early warning signs of embolism as soon as possible.

When deep vein thrombosis is a known problem for the patient, treating it is usually recommended to prevent a pulmonary embolism. Treatment can involve surgery, clot-busting drugs, and other measures to break up the clot safely and make sure it can pass through the patient's body without causing harm. Being aware of the connection between deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism is important for care providers working with severely injured or immobilized patients, as they may need to take action to address a blood clot.

Chest pain and excessive sweating are common signs of a pulmonary embolism.
Chest pain and excessive sweating are common signs of a pulmonary embolism.

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