enous thromboembolism may
be one of the most dangerous
conditions you’ve never heard of,
particularly for stroke survivors.
WHAT is VTE?
Blood clots form when something slows or changes
the flow of blood in the veins. A stationary blood clot that
forms in one part of the body is a thrombus, then if it moves
through the bloodstream until it lodges in a narrow vessel
and blocks the flow of blood, is called an embolus. An
embolus in a coronary artery can cause a heart attack, in a
cerebral artery, it can cause a stroke.
When these blood clots occur in the veins it is called
venous thromboembolism (VTE). There are two related,
and potentially life-threatening, conditions that come under
the category of VTE, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and
pulmonary embolism (PE). When they occur, they demand
immediate medical attention.
DVT and PE
Deep vein thrombosis affects up to 2 million people in
the U.S. and happens when a clot occurs in the larger veins
deeper in the body, as opposed to a vein that runs close to
the body’s surface. The risk of DVT in those who’ve had a
stroke is higher than in those who haven’t. It occurs about
twice as often after strokes caused by a bleed (hemorrhagic)
than after those caused by a clot (ischemic).
DVT usually occurs in the leg, mainly affecting the
large veins in the calf and thigh, usually on one side, not
both. About half of people experiencing DVT don’t show
outward signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur,
they show up in the leg that has a clot.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot due to DVT
breaks off and travels to the lungs, causing a blockage
that can permanently injure the affected lung, lowering
the blood’s oxygen level and potentially damaging other
organs by starving them of oxygen. Blood clots that travel
to the lungs are more likely to have formed and broken
away in the thigh rather than in the lower leg or other
parts of the body.
About half of people experiencing DVT or PE will not
exhibit symptoms. When symptoms of DVT do show up,
they may include:
• Changes in skin color (redness)
• Leg pain or tenderness, especially in the calf
• Leg swelling (edema)
UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSES
AND RISKS OF VENOUS
By Jon Caswell | Adapted in part from
Be Aware of