Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatments
Early Treatment With Blood Thinners Is Important to Prevent a Life-threatening Pulmonary Embolism,
but Does Not Treat the Existing Clot
Early in treatment, blood thinners are given to keep the clot from growing or breaking off and traveling to the lung and causing a life-threatening pulmonary embolism by blocking the oxygen supply causing heart failure. Contrary to popular belief, blood thinners (anticoagulants) do not actively dissolve the clot, but instead prevents new clots from forming. Over time, the body will dissolve the clot, but often the vein becomes damaged in the meantime. To prevent permanant leg damage, patients can get catheter-directed thrombolysis treatment.
Seek a Second Opinion From an Interventional Radiologist if Leg Pain Continues Beyond Seven Days
It is important for DVT patients to be evaluated by an interventional radiologist to determine if catheter-directed thrombolysis is needed to remove the clot. This treatment is highly effective when performed within 10 days after symptoms begin.
Catheter-directed Thrombolysis (Clot-Busting) Treatment
Catheter-directed thrombolysis is performed under imaging guidance by interventional radiologists. This procedure, performed in a hospital’s interventional radiology suite, is designed to rapidly break up the clot, restore blood flow within the vein, and potentially preserve valve function to minimize the risk of post-thrombotic syndrome. The interventional radiologist inserts a catheter into the popliteal (located behind the knee) or other leg vein and threads it into the vein containing the clot using imaging guidance. The catheter tip is placed into the clot and a “clot busting” drug is infused directly to the thrombus (clot). The fresher the clot, the faster it dissolves – one to two days. Any narrowing in the vein that might lead to future clot formation can be identified by venography, an imaging study of the veins, and treated by the interventional radiologist with a balloon angioplasty or stent placement.
In patients in whom this is not appropriate and blood thinners are not medically appropriate, an interventional radiologist can insert a vena cava filter, a small device that functions like a catcher’s mitt to capture blood clots but allow normal liquid blood to pass.
Clinical resolution of pain and swelling and restoration of blood flow in the vein is greater than 85 percent with the catheter-directed technique.