What is Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)?

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs, pelvis or arms and travel to the heart and lungs. Blood clots which form and reside within the deep veins of the upper and lower extremities and pelvis are termed Deep Venous Thrombosis or DVT. While DVTs are not, in themselves, life-threatening, the condition can become deadly if the blood clot travels to the lungs and becomes a pulmonary embolism or PE, interrupting normal blood flow to the lungs.

How are DVTs and PE treated?

The main goal of treatment is to prevent future blood clots and to prevent existing clots from enlarging. The first step in this treatment is the use of anticoagulation medications (blood thinners), if you are able to take them. Some patients with recent surgery, for example, may not be candidates for this type of treatment.

Alternative treatment may include the placement of an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter if the patient is not able to tolerate the use of blood thinning medications. Additionally, an IVC filter may be prescribed for patients who develop recurrent blood clots or pulmonary emboli despite receiving adequate anti-coagulation therapy.

Patients for whom IVC filters may be prescribed:

  • Recurrent VTE, despite treatment with blood-thinning medications
  • Cannot take or tolerate blood-thinning medications due to bleeding, recent surgery or trauma or other adverse reaction to the blood thinners.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2019.

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