How Is Blood Clot In A Vein On The Leg Treated? Can Blood Clot on the Leg Be Life Threatening?
A blood clot anywhere can be life threatening, because there's always a chance that it can break loose and lodge in the brain or the heart. In some cases, de-clotting drugs may be used to non-invasively dissolve the clot. Most of the doctors I personally know prefer to surgically remove the clot, though -- depending on where it is, it's usually minimally invasive to remove it and then there's much less danger of small pieces getting loose. I've heard of various methods either under study or less commonly used that involves using ultrasonic waves to break up the clots, but I've never seen it used so I'm really not familiar with any of that.
Your blood contains enzymes that clean up debris in the blood and will dissolve clots naturally, eventually. The real danger of a blood clot is that it will break away from the walls of the vein and travel to the heart or lung where it will block a vein or capillary causing a heart attack or pulmonary embolism before it is dissolved.
If a doctor is worried about your clot, he or she is likely to give you a prescription for a blood thinner like coumadin. This is a very dangerous drug that makes your blood clot much more slowly, increasing the risk of internal bleeding from an injury or severe blood loss from a laceration, as well as bruising. It isn't something you want to take on a long term basis, and the blood level has to be monitored frequently to make sure you are not being turned into a medicinal hemopheliac. An alternative is to give you something via IV to specifically dissolve the clot if it is very large and painful.
Another treatment is to insert a filter in the vena cava vein. They install this filter via a catheter into the vena cava vein just above where both leg veins come together in the abdomen. This prevents a clot from travelling further and it will just stay there until the enzymes can dissolve it. It's a painless and not very invasive surgical procedure and is used when the doctor does not want to put the patient on coumadin.
Let's start with the easy part. A clot in the leg can be life threatening. The clot can break off and lodge in the lungs. This is a pulmonary embolism. I had one. They are common and 30% of people who have one die. I was put on bed rest the second they knew I had clots just in case I had some in my legs that would further clog my lungs.
The typical treatment for a leg clot - also known as a DVT or deep vein thrombosis is to use graduated support stockings and take an anticoagulant such as lovenox, heparin, or warfarin. This will prevent new clots and allow the body to do what it can to dissolve the current clot. If warfarin is used, heparin will be given for the 1st week of warfarin treatment to prevent side effects.
New research is showing that using a clot buster type medication locally administered to the venous clots prevents long term leg problems and damage to the vein. While study outcomes have been great, not many places are using this treatment.
Some people with frequent clots will have a filter placed in the leg to catch any clots that may travel to the lungs.
If you have repeated clots, it is recommended that you find a hematologist for additional blood testing. You will want to discover if you have a blood clotting disorder (thrombophilia). This may require specific monitoring and treatment to prevent additional clots.
I have written a number of hubs surrounding clots and am a clot survivor. Feel free to send me a note if you have additional questions. Also, check out http://hubpages.com/hub/BloodClotQnA as it will have more information for you.
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