by Marshaneil Soumi D’ Rozario | 5 JULY 2018
The human circulatory system is formed by arteries, which carry oxygenated blood from the heart, and veins, which take the deoxygenated blood back to it. While arterial blood flow is facilitated by the pumping of the heart, venous blood flow relies on limb muscles pumps and valves to prevent backflow, since gravity opposes the upward motion of blood in the veins. Large periods of immobility and dehydration can lead to clots forming in venous channels. When this occurs in deeper veins, the condition is called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
DVT affects both the upper and lower limbs of the body, and are characterised by their swelling, since the vein is blocked. In some cases, the clot can travel to the right atrium and ventricle in the heart, or further to the lungs, resulting in Pulmonary Embolism (PE). The larger the clot, the more fatal its effects, with Massive PE resulting in death.
Dr. Bheem Rao Sangars, MBBS, MS, MRCS, FRCSSr. Consultant - Vascular & Endo Vascular Surgeon of Gleneagles Global Hospital, gives an insight into this condition. He explains that while continuous immobilisation and dehydration are the most common causes, there are a minority of cases where the causes are genetic or due to environmental influences such as smoking. It is very rare that DVT is a presentation of cancer.
The common symptoms of limb DVT include swelling and possible intense pain, redness, low-grade fever, shortness of breath, and palpitations and sweating as possible hints for PE.
“The longer the clot stays in venous channels it damages the valves inside veins leading to both structural and functional failure of venous blood return. This can leave a patient with a permanent irreversible swollen limb with hardened discoloured skin and ulcers, in particular, around ankle and lower legs.,” says Dr. Sangars. This is known as Post DVT Syndrome and can functionally impair many people.
The immediate goal of the doctor during treatment is to reduce the risk of Massive PE, attend to immediate lower limb symptoms and aim to prevent long term complications like PTS, and identify any factors that can cause reoccurrence of the problem. It is important to recognize that there are preventive strategies for onset of DVT, and to seek medical attention when symptoms are noticed.
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