DVT refers to Deep Vein Thrombosis. It is a condition where there is a formation of a blood clot in a vein, which is located deep inside the body. The clot is formed due to the malfunctioning of a valve in the vein that slows the speed of blood flow.
A DVT usually is formed in the lower legs. However, it can be formed in the thigh or pelvic region too.
Depending on the severity and risk associated with the DVT, the doctor recommends the course of action. The use of blood thinners is the most common treatment modality with which the doctor begins.
These anticoagulants prevent the clot from breaking off or growing. However, their main action is through thinning the blood and preventing new clots from forming. They do not dissolve existing clots.
The body does dissolve the clot gradually. However, there are risks associated with the clot remaining unresolved over an extended period, consequently damaging the vein. The doctor uses a thrombolytic (breaking the clot) agent in the following situations:
The clots are large and causing pain, hindering blood circulation, or responsible for swelling
They are increasing the chances of pulmonary embolism (PE)
Instead of the leg, a DVT is formed in the arm
Catheter-driven thrombolysis is a procedure to dissolve such abnormal clots and restore the blood flow to normal. Blood supply when prevented because of thrombus (blood clot) formation can have dire consequences.
The doctor uses an X-ray-guided catheter (a thin tube) into the vein of the patient. The tip of the catheter is pushed into the DVT. Once lodged, the drug is directly impacted by the clot. These drugs have a thrombolytic action.
In the case where the vein seems narrow, the doctor may also perform a balloon-angioplasty or position a stent to widen the vein, such that the blood flow is unhindered. It is mostly an outpatient procedure but depending on the recovery post-procedure, the doctor may recommend the patient to stay overnight.
Although this procedure quickly breaks up the clot, there are a few risks associated with this procedure. Compared to blood thinners, it is considered more unsafe.
This procedure is associated with increased chances of bleeding and stroke. Therefore, this procedure is considered only for patients with severe blood clots.
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