Why Removing a Blood Clot is Important
Jeffrey Y. Wang, MD
Blood is carried through the body by a network of blood vessels, which are arteries and veins. The arteries carry oxygen rich blood with nutrients from the heart to all areas of the body. Veins are responsible for carrying the blood back to the heart. As blood moves up through the veins back to the heart, gravity puts force on the blood causing it to move down back toward the legs and feet. To keep the blood moving in the right direction, and to prevent the pooling of blood, veins have multiple small valves to move blood up toward the heart. When the muscles in your calf contract, blood is squeezed from the veins up toward the heart. When the muscles in your calf relax, the valves in the veins close to stop the blood from flowing away from the heart in the wrong direction. These valves open and close with the flow of blood to prevent backflow, if they are unable to completely close blood will pool in the lower body. In turn this can cause pain, swelling, heaviness, discoloration, and possibly even progress to ulceration.
There are three types of veins in our body: superficial, perforating and deep veins. Superficial veins run just beneath the skin and can sometimes be visible. The perforating veins connect the superficial veins to the deep veins. Deep veins are located deep within the leg and are responsible for carrying as much as 90% of the blood back to your heart.
When a blood clot forms in the deep veins, it creates a blockage causing the blood flow to become still and the valves to not work correctly. If the blood clot is not properly treated, it could cause damage to the valves leading to further complications such as post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). Many people with DVT blood clots will recover completely but up to 50% will develop post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS), a condition which can permanently affect your life with chronic pain, swelling, discomfort and even ulcers. PTS occurs when a blood clot damages the valves in your veins, preventing the natural flow of blood back to your lungs, allowing blood to unnaturally pool in the legs.
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.
If you have been diagnosed with a blood clot, talk with your doctor about all the treatment options available and what might be best for you.
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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.