Stepping up on awareness of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism

September 30, 2008 by  

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They are among the lesser known cardiovascular disorders but they are just as dangerous as the others and can cause disability and death.

That’s the reason why the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) published The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

refers to the formation of one or more blood clots (a blood clot is also known as a “thrombus,” while multiple clots are called “thrombi”) in one of the body’s large veins, most commonly in the lower limbs (e.g., lower leg or calf).

These clots can partially or totally block the blood flowing through the vein and can in approximately 50% of all cases manifest in pain, swelling, and discoloration of area affected. The other half of cases of DVT show few or no symptoms and are thus considered asymptomatic or “silent.” More than one third of DVT cases will result in a life-threatening complication called pulmonary embolism (PE).

A PE occurs when a portion of the blood clot breaks loose and travels in the bloodstream, first to the heart and then to the lungs, where it can partially or completely block a pulmonary artery or one of its branches.

DVT may be acute and can go away once treated. It may also be chronic and can recur again and again due to another complication called the postthrombotic syndrome (PTS). PTS occurs when the vein blockage is not cleared completely. The chronic blocking, damages the one-way valves, and results in venous pooling. This leads to,chronic leg pain, swelling, fatigue, and skin ulcers that are difficult to heal.

Every year, about 100,000 people die in the US as a result of DVT and PE.

DVT and PE are preventable and treatable conditions. However, there is a need to step up on awareness of these conditions especially because of the high number of asymptomatic cases. The Office of the Surgeon General, in collaboration with The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is supporting research work that “focuses on understanding the causes of DVT and PE, as well as safe and effective detection methods, treatments, and preventive measures.

In upcoming posts, I will discuss more in detail DVT and PE, the risk factors, the preventive measures, and the treatments.. In the meantime, you can check out:

US Department of Health and Human Services. The surgeon general’s call to action to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Available at:


Photo credit: scol22 at stock.xchng


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