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Blood Clots (cont.)

When to seek medical care for a blood clot

Usually the signs and symptoms of a blood clot will be enough to alert and potentially alarm a patient or their family enough to seek care.

An arterial clot prevents blood rich with oxygen and nutrients from getting to cells, causing them to stop functioning. This usually causes a true emergency and emergency services should be activated (often by calling 911).

  • If those oxygen-deprived cells are in the brain, then symptoms of stroke may be apparent. Time is of the essence in seeking emergency care. There is a narrow time window during which clot-busting drugs may be used to dissolve the blood clot and reverse the stroke. The acronym for symptoms of a stroke are FAST, which stands for:
    • F = drooping face
    • A = arm weakness
    • S = speech difficulty
    • T = time to call 911
  • A heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs when the blood clot occludes a coronary artery (one of the arteries that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle). The signs and symptoms of heart attack include:
  • Again, time is of the essence to try to re-establish blood supply to heart muscle by heart catheterization and balloon angioplasty and stent or by administering clot-busting drugs. The goal is to have the blocked heart artery opened up within 60-90 minutes of the patient's arrival at a medical care facility.
  • Other arterial clots will usually cause an acute onset of significant pain and will signal the need for emergency medical care.

What kinds of doctors treat blood clots?

Many different health-care professionals may be involved in caring for a person with a blood clot depending on where the clot is, and the patient's medical situation. Specialists that treat blood clots include emergency room doctors; primary health-care professionals including family medicine; internal medicine; women's health professionals; cardiologists; neurologists; pulmonologists; vascular surgeons; hematologists; interventional radiologists; and hospitalists.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2016

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