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

Reviewed on 3/18/2020

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 3/18/2020
References
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Litzendorf, M. E. and B Satiani. "Superficial venous thrombosis: disease progression and evolving treatment approaches." Vascular Health and Risk Management. 7 (2011): 569-575.

Lucena, J., et al. "Pulmonary embolism and sudden-unexpected death: prospective study on 2477 forensic autopsies performed at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Seville." Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 16.4 (2009): 196-201.

MedlinePlus. Deep Vein Thrombosis. Thompson, B.T., MD. "Overview of acute pulmonary embolism in adults." Updated: Aug 08, 2016.
<http://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-acute-pulmonary-embolism-in-adults>
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