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What is the Most Effective Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) describes a condition where a large blood clot forms in a vein, which is usually located in the leg. DVT can be a serious condition that is life threatening because part or all of the clot can move through the vein to the lungs and cause what is called pulmonary embolism, which is challenging to treat and may sometimes result in fatality. When DVT is diagnosed, there are usually several deep vein thrombosis treatment options, and most people will need to decide with their doctors which options are most appropriate. Not everyone will have exactly the same treatment since each person is different.

There is one deep vein thrombosis treatment that may be necessary for some patients, especially those who have a clot in their arm, one that is very large, or who have had pulmonary embolism in the past. Doctors may perform a catheterization and use medicine to dissolve the clot. Catheterization can also be used to place a stent if the clot formed because the vein was very narrow. Not everyone will need this treatment, called catheter directed thrombolysis, but some people could require it for safety.

Many people will have deep vein thrombosis treatment that uses anticoagulants or anti-clotting agents to break up the present clot, and to make sure that another clot doesn’t form in the future. There can be several medications people may take to treat DVT. One of the most common is warfarin (Coumadin&reg), and another one that may be used is heparin. With blood thinners, people will need to make some changes in life, and they’ll require frequent blood testing to make sure especially warfarin remains at stable levels. Many people who use this drug attend warfarin clinics once monthly or more to check their blood levels and receive vital information on the drug’s potential to interact with other drugs or to interact with vitamin K rich food.

Warfarin can be effective in breaking up a clot but it isn’t the best drug for everyone. Pregnant women, who may at risk for DVT, can’t take it. Instead heparin is usually used because it is safer for the fetus. Warfarin might be added at end of pregnancy and could potentially make breastfeeding unsafe for the baby. In certain circumstances, no blood thinners can be used because of other conditions, and in this case, doctors could do a surgery to place a small filter on the vena cava. This large vein returns blood from the body so that it can be pumped to the lungs, and by filtering the vena cava, no clots can get through and create embolism.

For people who have DVT in a leg, another intervention is to use compression stockings. These may need to be worn for up to a year after the DVT was diagnosed, and possibly longer if risk continues for development of more clots. Other deep vein thrombosis treatment can include making dietary and exercise changes to live more healthfully and lose weight if needed. People who smoke need to quit too, or risk new development of clots in the future. Discontinuation of any oral birth control is common, since hormone treatments tend to increase clotting risk.

Under some circumstances, deep vein thrombosis treatment doesn’t work, and patients might need to have a surgery to remove the clot. This is very rare and is not considered first line treatment. Usually surgery is only considered when standard treatment methods have failed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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