Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, affects almost a million people in the United States. DVT occurs when blood clots form in veins deep inside the veins closest to our bones, and though the condition is sometimes symptomless, patients often have pain and swelling in their legs. These symptoms are usually what lead doctors to discover their patient has DVT.
“They have symptoms like swelling and pain that they’ll report to their family doctor or present to an urgent care or ER, that’s where things get started,” says John Fish, MD, vascular medicine specialist with Jobst Vascular Institute at ProMedica Toledo Hospital. “Then they contact us or their physician will contact us.”
Jobst Vascular Institute has qualified technicians at multiple ProMedica lab locations that can determine if a clot is present. “Usually by the time we see them there is already a clot or suspicion of clot, and treatment has started.”
If left untreated, a clot can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.
“It can be a grave matter. It is something that requires immediate treatment, especially since movement of the clot into the lungs, called pulmonary embolism, can be fatal,” says Dr. Fish. “The prevalence of DVT is going up because we’re detecting it more often and realizing how broad of an issue it is. Much of this is due to better imaging, where we’re detecting smaller and smaller clots that could actually be of significance.”
“The prevalence of DVT is going up because we’re detecting it more often…and detecting smaller and smaller clots that could actually be of significance.”
Dr. Fish offers his patients two key pieces of advice: Stay active and don’t smoke.
“In general, people need to walk more and take stairs more frequently. For those who smoke I tell them not to smoke. Toxins in cigarette smoke are extremely damaging to the lining of the vessels and that’s what causes the inflammatory process that can lead to plaque and clotting in arteries and may contribute to disease of the veins as well,” explains Dr. Fish.
The prognosis for DVT patients is improving constantly, with new ways for stabilizing clots and thinning blood, along with surgical options and techniques to lessen swelling and pain.
“We like to think of ourselves as doctors who can significantly improve the quality of life of our patients,” says Dr. Fish. “Not only the duration but the quality.”