Deep vein thrombosis treatment is aimed at preventing the clot from getting any bigger, as well as preventing the clot from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism. After that, the goal becomes reducing your chances of deep vein thrombosis happening again.
Deep vein thrombosis treatment options include:
Jul. 03, 2014
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.
Usually, 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 injectable blood thinner, such as enoxaparin (Lovenox), dalteparin (Fragmin) or fondaparinux (Arixtra). Other blood thinners can be given in pill form, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) or rivaroxaban (Xarelto). Newer blood thinners also may offer additional options in the near future.
You may need to take blood thinners for three months or longer. If you're prescribed any of these blood thinners, it's important to take your medication exactly as your doctor instructs. Blood-thinning medications can have serious side effects if you take too much or too little.
You may need periodic blood tests to check how long it takes your blood to clot. Pregnant women shouldn't take certain blood-thinning medications.
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 prescribe different medications.
One group of medications is known as thrombolytics. These drugs, called tissue plasminogen activators (TPA), are given through an IV line to break up blood clots or may be given through a catheter placed directly into the clot. These drugs can cause serious bleeding and are generally used only in life-threatening situations. For these reasons, thrombolytic medications are only given in an intensive care ward of a hospital.
- 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. A vena cava filter prevents clots that break loose from lodging in your lungs.
Compression stockings. These help prevent swelling associated with deep vein thrombosis. These stockings are worn on your legs from your feet to about the level of your knees.
This pressure helps reduce the chances that your blood will pool and clot. You should wear these stockings during the day for at least two to three years if possible. Compression stockings can help prevent postphlebitic syndrome.
- Deep vein thrombosis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dvt/. Accessed April 1, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed April 2, 2014.
- Focus on blood clots. Vascular Disease Foundation. http://vasculardisease.org/deep-vein-thrombosis-venous-disease/ (http://vasculardisease.org/flyers/focus-on-blood-clots-flyer.pdf). Accessed April 1, 2014.
- DVT/PE Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/facts.html. Accessed April 5, 2014.
- Xarelto (prescribing information). Titusville, N.J.: Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. 2011. http://www.xarelto.com. Accessed April 1, 2014.
- Lip GY, et al. Treatment of lower extremity deep vein thrombosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 2, 2014.
- McBane RD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2014.
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