Q - What is DVT?
A - DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot in a major vein, usually in the leg.
Q - What is PE?
A - PE (pulmonary embolism) is a blood clot in the lungs.
Q - What is VTE?
A - VTE (Venous thromboembolism) is a disease that includes DVT and PE.
Q - What is the connection between DVT and PE?
A - PE is most often caused by part or all of a recently formed DVT breaking away and traveling to the veins in the lungs.
Q - How frequently do these occur?
A - These occur in hundreds of thousands of people in the United States every year. In the estimation of many doctors, as many as 80% of these are not diagnosed and many of those are never noticed by the patient and have minimal adverse effects.
Q - Who is at risk for DVT and PE?
A - There are many risk factors. The most likely of these is inherited genetic factors. Inactivity, surgery, smoking, cancer, advanced age and use of birth control pills or hormone medications also increase the risks. Approximately 2/3 of clots have no known cause.
Q - What are the symptoms of DVT?
A - DVT frequently shows up as a deep pain in the calf, sometimes accompanied by swelling and redness.
Q - What are the symptoms of a PE?
A - PE usually presents itself as unusual shortness of breath following exertion. This is often accompanied by pain in the back or chest in the area of the lungs.
Q - How is DVT diagnosed?
A - The simplest, most common and accurate diagnosis is made with venous ultrasound examination of the legs. The ultrasound test will often show if the flow has been stopped by a blood clot in a vein, which will also show up as an incompressible area in the vein.
Q - How is PE diagnosed?
A - PE can be most accurately diagnosed with a CT scan of the lungs using contrast dye. This will show areas of the lungs where the blood flow is impeded.
There is greater public awareness about blood clots within the arteries or arterial thrombosis. Arterial thrombosis within the coronary arteries leads to heart attack, while blockage of the cerebral blood vessels causes stroke. Of note is that venous and arterial thromboses share many of the same risk factors, including cigarette smoking, hypertension, and diabetes.
Stroke and myocardial infarction are major causes of death. It is estimated that every 45 seconds, someone in the United States suffers from a stroke. Annually, approximately 700,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke; about 500,000 of these are first attacks, and 200,000 are recurrent attacks. The estimated frequency of a heart attack is even greater. Each year approximately 1,2000,000 people living in the United States will suffer from a new or recurrent myocardial infarction. In addition, it is estimated that there are 175,000 silent first heart attacks each year.