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Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), Thrombophlebitis- Mass General Hospital

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Thrombophlebitis

The vascular system can be described as a network of roadways leading to and from the heart, with nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood transported throughout the body by the arteries, and then carried back to the heart via the veins.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and thrombophlebitis are conditions that involve inflammation and blood clot formation in the veins. In 90% of cases, deep vein thrombosis and thrombophlebitis conditions occur in the leg; however, they also occasionally occur in the arms or, even more rarely, in other parts of the body.

Thrombophlebitis refers to inflammation and blood clot (thrombus) formation occurring in the superficial veins (those closer to the skin surface). The condition is generally caused by irritation to the lining of the vein: for example, prolonged intravenous injection of medications or infection. While there is a very small risk of the blood clot traveling into the deeper veins, serious complications due to thrombophlebitis are extremely rare.

DVT refers to inflammation and blood clots occurring in the deep veins, those farther from the skin surface. DVT forms most commonly as a result of inactivity due to prolonged bed-rest or movement restriction. Other potential causes of DVT are pregnancy, obesity, severe infections, some types of cancers, recent major illness or surgery or conditions in which the blood is thicker than normal.

The most significant danger of deep vein thrombosis is that part of the blood clot will break off, travel along the veins, and get lodged in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism, and while it is an infrequent complication of DVT, a pulmonary embolism can be fatal. DVT can also result in permanent vein damage, leading to a condition referred to post-thrombotic syndrome, which may cause varicose veins, pain and swelling, and potentially skin ulcers in the surrounding area.


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