Complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Complications of untreated DVT can be devastating and life threatening. Blood clot deep in a vein can put you at risk for pulmonary embolism and postphlebitic syndrome. This makes the signs of deep vein thrombosis something that needs to be checked out right away.
Dr. Malekmehr elaborates on this fact and why DVT is a time-sensitive condition that must be taken seriously.
This is a chronic debilitating condition that occurs if DVT is not treated properly. The large veins of the legs and the thighs such as the femoral veins and the iliac veins have valves that direct the blood only towards the direction of the heart. Every time a person walks, the muscles of the leg including the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles in addition to the thigh muscles squeeze these veins and the blood flows in the direction towards the heart. These valves are very delicate, and their function is extremely important in unidirectional flow of the blood towards the heart. If these valves are damaged, this unidirectional flow of the blood in the veins is lost. In addition, when a person is standing the pressure of a column of blood from the heart all the way down to the legs is prevented to propagate down completely secondary to the one-way direction of these valves.
If these valves do not function properly, this unidirectional flow of the blood is lost. Subsequently if a person is standing, the column of blood all the way from the heart down to the leg would exert an extreme amount of pressure in the leg causing swelling and edema of the leg in addition to pain and other complications such as venous ulcerations. Furthermore if a person walks, the unidirectional flow of the blood going towards the heart is lost and the blood becomes stagnant in the leg and the swelling of the leg is exacerbated. This condition is called postphlebitic syndrome. This can become a life-long debilitating problem affecting ambulation, mobility, playing sports, or even simple walking. In some instances, the one lower extremity becomes so much bigger than the other that one has to wear different-sized shoes because of the different size of the feet. Postphlebitic syndrome can persist even after a DVT is resolved after the patient has been treated with only anticoagulation therapy for a long time.
This is a bigger concern when someone has deep vein thrombosis. Pulmonary Embolism is a life-threatening complication of DVT. A blood clot can travel from the extremities to the heart and the lung. If a large piece of blood clot gets dislodged in a major pulmonary artery, it can block circulation to the lung and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the pumping action of the heart. This can eventually be fatal. About 100,000 patients die every year secondary to pulmonary embolism as a consequence of DVT. In many other patients who survive, they have to live with a respiratory compromise and signs of pulmonary hypertension.