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Blood Clot in the Legs (cont.)

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms occur in the affected leg when a clot obstructs blood flow and causes inflammation. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Swelling
  • Gradual onset of pain
  • Redness
  • Warmth to the touch
  • Worsening leg pain when bending the foot
  • Leg cramps, especially at night
  • Bluish or whitish discoloration of skin

Some people with deep vein thrombosis do not experience any symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Care for DVT

Call the doctor immediately if a clot is suspected.

  • Although a deep vein thrombosis may resolve on its own, the life-threatening consequences of a clot reaching the lung, called pulmonary embolism, are severe enough to warrant seeking medical attention immediately.
  • The doctor may tell the patient to go immediately to a hospital emergency department.

If a person has leg pain or swelling with any risk factors, go to a hospital emergency department immediately.

Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know with a current deep vein thrombosis, previous deep vein thrombosis, or other DVT/PE risk factor begins having chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fainting, or any other concerning symptom.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Diagnosis

Patient Comments

Upon hearing the patient's symptoms, the doctor may suspect the patient has a deep vein thrombosis, especially if they have any of the risk factors.

No accurate blood test is available to diagnose deep vein thrombosis. A variety of imaging tests are used to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Doppler ultrasound: Using high-frequency sound waves, this system can visualize the large, proximal veins and detect a clot if one is present. Painless and without complications, this is the most commonly used method to diagnose deep vein thrombosis. However, sometimes the test can miss a clot, especially in the smaller veins.
  • Venography: A liquid dye is injected into the veins for imaging studies. It highlights blockage of blood flow by a clot. This is the most accurate test, but also the most uncomfortable and invasive. It is rarely done today because of the availability of improved ultrasound technology.
  • Impedance plethysmography: Electrodes are used to measure volume changes within veins. Because this test does not detect clots better than ultrasound and is harder to perform, it is rarely used.
  • CT scan: This is a type of X-ray that gives a very detailed look at the leg veins in cross section and can detect clots. It is rarely used for this purpose as it is more difficult to interpret and is time consuming. The CT scan is more useful for identification of blood clots in the lung.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/28/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Deep Vein Thrombosis (Blood Clot in the Leg, DVT):

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Deep Venous Thrombosis »

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) most commonly involves the deep veins of the leg or arm, often resulting in potentially life-threatening emboli to the lungs or debilitating venous alular dysfunction and chronic leg swelling.

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