Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a vein deep in the body. Most deep vein clots happen in the lower leg or thigh but can happen in other parts of the body. These blood clots can be dangerous if they break loose. They can then travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, blocking blood flow to the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is an emergency.

Cancer patients are at a higher risk for getting a DVT due to greater activation of the clotting system by cancer cells. DVT in cancer patients can also be linked to implanted catheter use (PICC, Hickman, PAC). Other risks for getting a DVT are long periods of not moving, blood clotting disorders, and injury/trauma to the blood vessels. 

Signs of DVT happen in the part of the body where the DVT is: 

  • Swelling. 
  • Pain.
  • Tenderness.
  • Warmth.  
  • Redness. 

Diagnosis is most often made through ultrasound of the affected area. Treatment goals include stopping the clot from getting larger, preventing PE, and lowering the risk of having another blood clot.

How is it managed?

After diagnosis, your care team will likely treat your DVT with anticoagulant medications (blood thinners). These medications can be taken by mouth, via injection, or intravenously (IV). Your care team will discuss the best treatment options with you. Some anti-coagulants need regular blood level monitoring. Common anti-coagulants are Coumadin, Lovenox, and Heparin.

When should I contact my care team?

If you have pain, redness, swelling, or tenderness in your arm, leg, or any body part or near a central line contact your care team right away.

References

American Heart Association. What is a venous thromboembolism (VTE)? 2017. Found at: http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/venous-thromboembolism/what-is-venous-thromboembolism-vte

Aw A, Carrier M, Koczerginski J, McDiarmid S, Tay J. Incidence and predictive factors of symptomatic thrombosis related to peripherally inserted central catheters in chemotherapy patients. Thrombosis research. 2012;130(3):323-6.

Rickles FR,  Varga E,  Brownstein A.  Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE): Awareness and prophylaxis practices reported by patients with cancer. J Clin Oncol.  2011; 29, 77005-102.

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