Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The goal of deep vein thrombosis treatment is threefold:

  • Stopping your blood clot from getting any bigger
  • Preventing the clot from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism
  • Reducing your chances of deep vein thrombosis happening again

Deep vein thrombosis treatment options include:

  • Blood thinners. Medications used to treat deep vein thrombosis include the use of anticoagulants, also sometimes called blood thinners, whenever possible. These are drugs that decrease your blood's ability to clot. While they don't break up existing blood clots, they can prevent clots from getting bigger or reduce your risk of developing additional clots.

    Typically, you'll first be given a shot or infusion of the blood thinner heparin for a few days. After starting heparin injections, your treatment may be followed by another blood thinner in pill form, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or rivaroxaban (Xarelto). You may need to take blood thinners for three months or longer.

    If you're prescribed heparin or warfarin, take your medication exactly as your doctor instructs. Both medications can have serious side effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding, if you take too much. On the other hand, if your dose is too low, you're at increased risk of additional blood clots. You'll need periodic blood tests to check how long it takes your blood to clot. Pregnant women shouldn't take warfarin.

  • Clotbusters. If you have a more serious type of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, or if other medications aren't working, your doctor may try other medications.

    One group of medications is known as thrombolytics. These drugs, such as tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), are given through an intravenous (IV) line to break up blood clots. These drugs can cause serious bleeding and are typically used only in life-threatening situations.

  • Filters. If you can't take medicines to thin your blood, a filter may be inserted into a large vein — the vena cava — in your abdomen. This filter prevents clots that break loose from lodging in your lungs. The filters are sometimes referred to as umbrellas because they look like the wire spokes of an umbrella.
  • Compression stockings. These help prevent swelling associated with deep vein thrombosis. These stockings are worn on the leg from your foot to about the level of your knee. This pressure helps reduce the chances that your blood will pool and clot. You should wear these stockings for at least a year if possible.
Jan. 19, 2013