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DVT Complications

Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a serious condition that can cause long-term health complications, including pulmonary embolism and post-thrombotic syndrome. Get clarity about these conditions and be sure to talk to your doctor about ways to help prevent them.

Pulmonary Embolism

If all or part of a blood clot breaks loose and travels to your lung, it can block blood flow and cause a pulmonary embolism (PE). Since PE is usually caused by a DVT blood clot, the combined condition is sometimes called venous thromboembolism, or VTE.

Pulmonary embolism can cause permanent damage to the affected lung, harm other organs due to lack of oxygen, and even cause death. That’s why it's so important to know the symptoms of a PE and seek immediate medical help if they happen.

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath that usually appears suddenly and gets worse with exertion
  • Chest pain or discomfort that gets worse when you cough or take a deep breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Fainting
  • Pain or swelling of the leg, usually in the calf
  • Clammy or discolored skin
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating
With proper treatment, 92% to 98% of people with Pulmonary Embolism (PE) will survive. Without treatment, only about 70% will survive. (1)
100,000 people die in the U.S. each year from blood clots (2)

Post-Thrombotic Syndrome

Many people with DVT blood clots will recover completely. But up to 50% will develop post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS), a condition that can cause chronic pain, swelling, and discomfort that can permanently affect your quality of life. PTS occurs when a blood clot damages the valves in your veins, inhibiting the natural flow of blood back to your lungs.

Blood-thinning medications are critical in reducing the risk for short-term complications of DVT such as pulmonary embolism, but they do not dissolve or remove the clot. Some patients may be candidates for treatments that can help clear the clot, potentially reducing the risk of long-term complications such as PTS. Be sure to talk to your doctor about all your DVT treatment options.

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Up to 50% of people with DVT will develop PTS (3)

Symptoms of Post-Thrombotic Syndrome

The following symptoms of PTS usually appear within six months of a DVT blood clot, but they can take up to two years to develop:

  • Leg swelling (edema)
  • Leg pain and cramping
  • Leg heaviness
  • Leg tingling and itching
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin sores or ulcers

Talk to your Doctor

From understanding your risk of complications to finding out about your treatment options, our Doctor Discussion Guide has important questions to ask your doctor to help clear up the confusion about DVT.

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  1. Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education. Venous Thromboembolism (Deep Venous Thrombosis & Pulmonary Embolism). http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/cardiology/venous-thromboembolism/. Accessed October 19, 2015.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Venous Thromboembolism (Blood Clots). Venous Thromboembolism: Impact of Blood Clots on the United States – Infographic. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/infographic-impact.html. Accessed October 5, 2015.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Venous Thromboembolism (Blood Clots). Data & Statistics. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/data.html. Accessed October 5, 2015.