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Questions and answers on deep-vein thrombosis

The Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis provides a list of frequently asked questions to educate people about this potentially deadly condition.

Some of them are listed below.

Q. What is deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)?
A. Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is a common but serious medical condition that occurs in approximately two million Americans each year.1 DVT occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one of the large veins, usually in the lower limbs, leading to either partially or completely blocked circulation. The condition may result in health complications, such as a pulmonary embolism (PE) and even death if not diagnosed and treated effectively.

Q. What is a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
A. A pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot is lodged in the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary artery), causing a severe dysfunction in respiratory function. PEs often come from the deep leg veins and travel to the lungs through blood circulation. Symptoms include sudden shortness of breath (that becomes worse with breathing), and rapid heart and respiratory rates.

Q. Why do blood clots form?A. Blood clots form to help heal the body after an injury. For example, clots are what stop the bleeding in a cut or wound. In most situations, blood clots are a natural part of the healing process. They enable the injured tissue to begin to repair itself without excessive blood loss. In the case of DVT, however, the body signals the clotting process to occur unnecessarily at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

Q. Does DVT always occur in the legs?
A. Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body. However, DVT occurs only in deep veins. Most often it occurs in the legs, thighs, and pelvis.

Q. How do I know if my patient is at risk for DVT?
A. Although some people may be at risk for developing DVT, DVT can occur in almost anyone. Some risk factors or triggering events to discuss with your patient include, but are not limited to:

  • Congestive heart failure or respiratory failure
  • Restricted mobility
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Age over 40 years
  • Recent surgery
  • Smoking
  • Prior or family history of venous thromboembolism (VTE)

Q. I’m taking oral contraceptives. Does that mean my risk is higher?
A. Yes. Both oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may increase the tendency of the blood to clot. Keep in mind, however, that millions of women have taken oral contraceptives without encountering this problem; the affected population is relatively small.

The FAQ does not mention that a number of studies have indicated that oral contraceptives containing the compound drospirenone put users at up to three times the risk of blood clots compared to other birth control pills on the market. Pills with drospirenone include Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz and Ocella.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with a Beyaz lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries while on Beyaz or similar birth control pills.

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