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Can You Die if You Have a Blood Clot in Your Leg?

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask Die if You Have a Blood Clot in Your Leg Related Articles

Ask a Doctor

My grandpa just went to the hospital for a deep vein thrombosis, which the doctor says is a blood clot in his leg. Can you die from deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

Doctor’s response

Yes, you can die of a deep vein thrombosis. Death in DVT cases typically occurs when the clot or a piece of it travels to the lung (pulmonary embolism). Most DVTs resolve on their own. If a pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs, the prognosis can be more severe.

  • About 25% of people who have a PE will die suddenly, and that will be the only symptom.
  • About 23% of people with PE will die within 3 months of diagnosis, just over 30% will die after 6 months, and there is a 37% mortality (death) rate at 1 year after being diagnosed.

If an individual has had one deep vein thrombosis, they are more likely than the average person to have another deep vein thrombosis.

  • The CDC estimates 33% of people with DVT/PE will have a recurrence within 10 years.
  • Recurrence of DVT is more common in patients with risk factors such as cancer or inherited blood-clotting problems. Recurrence is less common in patients who have short-term risk factors, such as surgery or temporary inactivity.
  • Closely follow the prevention instructions from the doctor.
  • Anticoagulant therapy lowers the death rate from pulmonary embolism significantly.

For more information, read our full medical article on deep vein thrombosis.

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Reviewed on 9/11/2019
References
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MedlinePlus. Deep Vein Thrombosis. Thompson, B.T., MD. "Overview of acute pulmonary embolism in adults." Updated: Aug 08, 2016.
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