Thrombosis and Embolism Chapter 8

Prevention & Treatment


It's wise to use preventive measures before and after any event that might increase your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis, especially if you are already at risk.

  • When sitting for long periods of time, exercise your lower leg muscles to improve circulation in your legs. Flex your feet so that the calves of your legs are stretched, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • After an illness or surgery, get out of bed as soon as possible. If you can't, do leg exercises as described above.
  • During a long airplane flight, get up and walk around every hour and drink lots of nonalcoholic and uncaffeinated beverages. Do the leg exercises described above every 20 minutes.
  • After some types of surgery, take anticoagulants as prescribed by your doctor (for those at increased risk). Be aware that foods high in vitamin K, like leafy greens and canola and soybean oils, can affect how anticoagulants work.
  • During a hospital stay, you might use pneumatic compression stockings. These devices are put on before surgery and kept on until you can walk again. They alternately inflate and deflate to squeeze the calves and empty the veins.

In addition:

  • Use special stockings called compression stockings to help prevent deep vein thrombosis (for those at increased risk).
  • Make lifestyle changes. Lose weight, quit smoking, and manage your blood pressure. Overweight and obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure all increase your risk of DVT.


Treatment of DVT seeks to prevent

  • the blood clot from becoming larger
  • the blood clot from traveling to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)
  • post-thrombotic syndrome
  • the formation of more blood clots

Treatments for DVT include:

  • Anticoagulant (sometimes called blood-thinning) medication, such as heparin and warfarin. Anticoagulants don't break up existing clots, but they do keep them from getting bigger and reduce the risk of developing additional clots.
  • Thrombolytics (clotbusting drugs), including streptokinase, alteplase, and urokinase. These are used in serious cases or if other drugs aren't working. They are given intravenously to break up clots, but can cause internal bleeding and are only given in life-threatening situations. Thrombolytic drugs work by activating the enzyme plasminogen, which clears the fibrin network that holds the clot together. This makes the clot soluble so that it can be further dissolved by other enzymes.
  • A filter often called an umbrella may be placed inside a large vein (usually the vena cava) between the heart and the area affected by the DVT. The filter traps emboli and prevents them from reaching the lungs. Umbrella filters are used when drug therapy has proved inadequate, failed, or would cause other dangerous medical conditions.
  • Compression stockings.These prevent swelling and reduce the chances that the blood will pool and clot.

Be aware that blood clots can occur even in people without risk factors, given the right conditions, on a long airplane flight, for example. Stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. Preventing DVT is much easier than treating it.

More on this topic

What Are Thrombosis & Embolism? (VIDEO)

Your Blood Moves

Thrombus & Embolus

Symptoms & Risk Factors

Blood Must Flow

Consequences of Clots

Tests & Diagnosis for DVT

Prevention & Treatment

Related Health Centers:

Aneurysm and Stent, Angioplasty, Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Continuum, Cholesterol and Atherosclerosis, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Heart Attack and Angina, Hypertension, Stroke, Thrombosis and Embolism, Women and Cardiovascular Health

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.