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Complications After a DVT/PE: What to Watch For

You've been diagnosed. You've been treated and you're home. What now?

Now, it's time to get informed. In addition to watching for another DVT or PE, there are several complications you should be aware of, including post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH).

Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS)

Post-thrombotic syndrome, also known as postphlebitic syndrome and venous stress disorder, occurs when valves within the veins are damaged after a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It develops in at least half of patients who have experienced a DVT and can really affect a patients quality of life.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Leg swelling
  • Calf pain
  • Calf fatigue
  • Skin discoloration
  • Venous ulcers
  • Vericose veins
  • Discoloration

Treatment and Prevention

After a DVT, patients are encouraged to wear compression stockings to bring down their swelling. In addition to helping prevent PTS, they are also used by some as treatment. These custom-fit stockings can help with pain. Patients must meet with their doctor to decide what form of treatment is best for them.

Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH)

Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) is a form of pulmonary hypertension that can develop in patients who have experienced a pulmonary embolism. CTEPH occurs when a blood clot forms in the lungs, reducing blood flow and increasing pressure on the blood vessels. The high blood pressure that it causes puts stress on the right side of the heart, weakening it. It generally develops 6 months to 2 years after a PE.

Symptoms

CTEPH symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially after physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood

Because CTEPH symptoms are similar to other diseases, it can be difficult to diagnose. Only a medical professional can determine if a patient has CTEPH. They use tests such as an echocardiogram, right heart catheterization, a V/Q scan, or a pulmonary angiography to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

As with PE, anticoagulants (blood thinners) can be used to treat CTEPH. There is also a very specialized surgery available, known as pulmonary thromboendarterectomy. During the surgery, a doctor removes the blood clots from the arteries of each lung. Only a doctor can decide what treatment is right for a patient.

If you believe you might be dealing with CTEPH, it is important to see your doctor. NATF has put together a guide to help you prepare the right information for your doctor. You can access it here.

For more information on CTEPH, visit www.CTEPH.com.

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