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 that form and reside within the deep veins of the upper and lower extremities and pelvis are termed Deep Venous Thrombosis or DVTs. 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 is Venous Thromboembolism treated?
The main goal of treatment is to prevent future blood clots and to prevent existing clots from enlarging.
Anticoagulants (sometimes called blood thinners) decrease your blood's ability to clot. Anticoagulants include:
- Warfarin (Coumadin), given by mouth.
- Heparin or low molecular weight heparin (including enoxaparin sodium (Lovenox) or dalteparin sodium (Fragmin). Fondaparinux sodium (Arixtra) can also be used and is given as an injection.
- New anticoagulant medications given orally (by mouth). These include rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and dabigatran (Pradaxa).
- Thrombolytic therapy - medications delivered through a catheter that is directed into the area of the clot. Because they increase the risk of bleeding, they are only used in special situations determined by your physician.
- Direct thrombin inhibitors are medications that interfere with the clotting process. They are used to treat some types of clots and may be prescribed for patients who cannot take heparin or low molecular weight heparins.
Interventional and Percutaneous Procedures
- Angioplasty - a nonsurgical treatment for DVT that is used to widen the vein after the blood clot has been dissolved.
- Stent - a small, metal mesh tube that acts as a scaffold and provides support inside the vein.
- Inferior vena cava filters - used when you cannot take any of the blood thinners, or if you are taking blood thinners and continue to develop clots. The filter can prevent blood clots from moving from the vein in your legs to the lung (pulmonary embolism.
Pulmonary thromboendarterectomy is a surgical procedure and the only effective treatment for patients with Chronic Pulmonary Thromboembolism (blood clot in the lungs).