Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Treatment Options
A DVT may make it harder for you to get around at first. You should slowly return to your normal activities. If your legs feel swollen or heavy, lie in bed with your heels propped up about 5 to 6 inches. This helps improve circulation and decreases swelling.
- Exercise your lower leg muscles if you are sitting still for long periods of time.
- Stand up and walk for a few minutes every hour while awake.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing that could decrease the circulation in your legs.
- Wear compression stockings as recommended by your doctor.
- Avoid activities that may cause a serious injury.
What treatments are available for patients with a DVT?
Patients with a DVT may need to be treated in the hospital. Others may be able to have outpatient treatment.
Treatments include medications, compression stockings and elevating the affected leg. If the blood clot is extensive, you may need more invasive testing and treatment. The main goals of treatment are to:
- Stop the clot from getting bigger
- Prevent the clot from breaking off in your vein and moving to your lungs
- Reduce the risk of another blood clot
- Prevent long-term complications from the blood clot (chronic venous insufficiency).
Important Information About Medications
- Take your medications exactly as your doctor tells you to.
- Have blood tests as directed by your doctor and keep all scheduled laboratory appointments.
- Do not stop or start taking any medication (including nonprescription/over-the-counter medications and supplements) without asking your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor about your diet. You may need to make changes, depending on the medication you take.
Treatment for a DVT can include:
Anticoagulants ("blood thinners"). This type of medication makes it harder for your blood to clot. Anticoagulants also stop clots from getting bigger and prevent blood clots from moving. Anticoagulants do not destroy clots. Your body may naturally dissolve a clot, but sometimes clots do not completely disappear.
There are different types of anticoagulants. Your doctor will talk to you about the best type of medication for you.
If you need to take an anticoagulant, you may only need to take it for 3 to 6 months. But, your treatment time may be different if:
- You have had clots before, your treatment time may be longer.
- You are being treated for another illness (such as cancer), you may need to take an anticoagulant as long as your risk of a clot is higher.
The most common side effect of anticoagulants is bleeding. You should call your doctor right away if you notice that you bruise or bleed easily while taking this medication.
You will likely need to wear graduated compression stockings to get rid of leg swelling. The swelling is often because the valves in the leg veins are damaged or the vein is blocked by the DVT.
Most compression stockings are worn just below the knee. These stockings are tight at the ankle and become more loose as they go up the leg. This causes gentle pressure (compression) on your leg.
DVT Treatment Procedures
Vena cava filters are used when you cannot take medications to thin your blood or if you have blood clots while taking this type of medication. The filter prevents blood clots from moving from the vein in your legs to the lung (pulmonary embolism). The filter is put in place during minor surgery. It is inserted through a catheter into a large vein in the groin or neck, then into the vena cava (the largest vein in the body). Once in place, the filter catches clots as they move through the body. This treatment helps prevent a pulmonary embolism, but does not prevent the formation of more clots.
Can a DVT be prevented?
After you have a DVT, you will need to reduce your risk of future clots by:
- Taking your medications exactly as your doctor tells you to.
- Keeping your follow-up appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. These are needed to see how well your treatment is working.
If you have never had a DVT , but have an increased risk of developing one, be sure to:
- Exercise your lower leg muscles if you need to sit still for a long time. Stand up and walk at least every half hour if you are on a long flight. Or get out of the car every hour if you are on a long road trip.
- Get out of bed and move around as soon as you can after you are sick or have surgery. The sooner you move around, the less chance you have of developing a clot.
- Take medications or use compression stockings after surgery (if prescribed by your doctor) to reduce your risk of a clot.
- Follow-up with your doctor as directed to and follow your doctor’s recommendations to reduce your risk of a clot.