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Deep vein thrombosis - discharge

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in a vein that is not on the surface of the body.

It mainly affects the large veins in the lower leg and thigh. The clot can block blood flow. If the clot breaks off and moves through the bloodstream, it can get stuck in the brain, lungs, heart, or other area of the body, leading to severe damage.

Alternate Names

DVT - discharge; Blood clot in the legs - discharge; Thromboembolism - discharge

Self-care

Wear the pressure stockings prescribed by your doctor. They will improve blood flow in your legs and lower your risk for problems with blood clots and long-term complications.

  • Avoid letting the stockings become very tight or wrinkled.
  • If you use lotion on your legs, let it dry before you put the stockings on.
  • Put powder on your legs to make it easier to put on the stockings.
  • Wash the stockings each day with mild soap and water, rinse, and air dry.
  • Be sure you have a second pair of stockings to wear while the other pair is being washed.
  • If your stockings feel too tight, tell your doctor or nurse. Do not just stop wearing them.

Your doctor may give you medicine to thin your blood . This will help keep more clots from forming.

  • Take the medicine just the way your doctor prescribed it.
  • Know what to do if you miss a dose.
  • You may need to get blood tests often to make sure you are taking the right dose.

Ask your doctor what exercises and other activities are safe for you to do.

Do not sit or lie down in the same position for long periods of time.

  • Do not cross your legs when you sit.
  • Do not sit so that you put steady pressure on the back of your knee.
  • Prop up your legs on a stool or chair if your legs swell when you sit.

If swelling is a problem, keep your legs resting above your heart. When sleeping, make the foot of the bed a few inches higher than the head of the bed.

Do not wear tight clothing on your legs or around your waist. If your clothes leave a mark in your skin, they are too tight.

When traveling:

  • By car -- stop often, and get out and walk around for a few minutes.
  • On a plane, bus, or train -- get up and walk around often.
  • While sitting in a car, bus, plane, or train -- wiggle your toes, tighten and relax your calf muscles, and shift your position often.
  • Do not sit with your legs crossed.

Do not smoke. If you do, ask your doctor for help quitting.

Drink at least 6 - 8 cups of liquid a day, if your doctor says it is okay.

Try to use less salt.

  • Do not add extra salt to your food.
  • Do not eat canned foods and other processed foods that have a lot of salt.
  • Read food labels to check the amount of salt (sodium) in foods. Ask your doctor how much sodium is okay for you to eat each day.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • Your skin looks pale, blue, or feels cold to touch.
  • You have more swelling in your leg.
  • You have fever or chills.
  • You are short of breath (it is hard to breathe).
  • You have chest pain, especially when it gets worse upon taking a deep breath in.
  • You cough up blood.

References

Ginsberg J. Peripheral venous disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 81.

Guyatt GH, Akl EA, Crowther M, et al. Executive Summary: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis. 9th ed. American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012;141(2 suppl):7s-47s. 

Updated: 5/19/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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