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Deep vein thrombosis: The serious side of blood clots

Written By: Wendy Cederberg, UT Physicians | Updated: March 12, 2019
Anthony Macaluso - deep vein thrombosis patient

After being treated for deep vein thrombosis, Anthony's pain, swelling, and discomfort are gone.

Anthony Macaluso, Jr., knows all too well the symptoms and seriousness of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Anthony Macaluso - DVT “I’ve struggled with genetic vascular disease for most of my life,” he explains, “and suffered from common symptoms, such as pain and swelling in my legs.”

“DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs,” explains Sheila M. Coogan, M.D., a minimally invasive vascular specialist at UT Physicians and associate professor at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). “While DVT can cause leg pain or swelling, it also can occur without any symptoms.”

DVT can be a serious health risk. “A blood clot in your veins can break loose, travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the lungs, blocking blood flow, and this is called a pulmonary embolism,” she says. “This condition can worsen over time so it is critical that a patient seeks immediate help.”

Macaluso describes Dr. Coogan as a miracle worker. “She always finds the perfect solution and she has performed several procedures to help Anthony Macaluso

with my DVT.” His pain, swelling, and discomfort are gone, and his advice to those with similar symptoms who postpone a trip to the doctor? “Don’t wait,” he cautions.

DVT symptoms include:

  • Swelling, or a feeling of warmth in the affected leg
  • Pain in the affected leg such as cramping or soreness
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg

The signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath or cough
  • Feeling light headed, dizzy, or fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Coughing up blood

Effective treatment/procedures

“For acute DVT, some patients benefit from immediate thrombolysis (clot dissolving medicine) and taking blood-thinning medications,” says Dr. Coogan.

For patients who have had DVTs in the past and continue to have leg swelling, they may have a completely blocked vein that can be reopened using a stent.

The most common study performed to determine if a patient has DVT is a duplex ultrasound. “If this study does not show DVT,” explains Dr. Coogan, “the patient should follow-up with a specialist in venous disease. We can explore other reasons for leg swelling.”

Anthony Macaluso - Deep Vein Thrombosis

Risk factors for DVT

  • Inherit a blood-clotting disorder
  • Prolonged bed rest (during a long hospital stay or paralysis)
  • Injury or surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Smoking
  • Cancer
  • Sitting for long periods of time (driving or flying)

What’s most surprising about DVT? “Otherwise healthy people can have a DVT if they are severely dehydrated and/or they may have a genetic risk for clotting that has never been diagnosed,” she says.

Take action

“If you have leg swelling, see a vascular surgeon with specific expertise in venous disease,” advises Dr. Coogan. “If you have unexplained leg swelling – especially affecting only one leg, it is venous disease until proven otherwise.”

If you, a family member or friend, develop any of these symptoms, contact 888-4UT-DOCS (888-488-3627) immediately.

Dr. Coogan will be providing complimentary leg vein consultations on the morning of Saturday, April 13th from 8am to 11am. Those interested in having an assessment of your veins and other vascular conditions should call to schedule an appointment at 713-500-VEIN (8346).

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.