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Deep vein thrombosis, DVT, occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, usually in the lower extremity of the legs or less commonly, the lower part of the body below the pelvis. Though DVT sometimes resolves on it’s own without medical intervention, DVT can be a life-threatening condition if the blood clot travels to other essential parts of the body, typically the lungs which is known as a Pulmonary Embolism.
Pulmonary embolism is the potentially fatal condition that occurs when a blood clot develops or travels to an artery in the lungs. DVT is the primary cause of pulmonary embolism. These conditions are widely known and studied and all medical professionals should be able to promptly and properly assess you for signs and symptoms of these life threatening conditions.
If medical professionals failed to recognize the symptoms and risk factors of DVT resulting in failed diagnosis or treatment of DVT, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.
Understanding Deep Vein Thrombosis
Blood clots are often the result of changes in normal blood flow, injuries to veins or arteries, or changes in the constitution of the blood (more likely to clot). DVT can occur after surgery, during long periods of not moving like hospital stays or long flights, or while restricted to a hospital bed.
When a blood clot forms in a deep or interior vein it can obstruct blood flow to the limb causing swelling, or the clot can break and travel to other parts of the body. If the clot travels to the lungs it is called a pulmonary embolism and will quickly become fatal if not treated immediately. DVT is the principal cause of pulmonary embolism. Deep vein thrombosis can also cause a partial blockage, restricting blood flow to a limb or other part of the body. When this happens your limbs will lose blood flow and if not treated will require amputation of the affected limbs. Blood clots can also form in the superficial veins (veins closer to the skin surface) in the body, but these clots do not usually carry the same risks as DVT because they normally do not travel to other parts of the body like the lungs or limbs.
Understanding Pulmonary Embolism
Under healthy conditions, the left side of the heart pumps blood into the lungs where it becomes oxygen-rich. The right side of the heart pumps this oxygen-rich blood throughout the body by the heart through vessels called arteries. After all the oxygen has been spread to parts of the body, the oxygen-poor blood is carried through veins back to the heart and the cycle begins again.
When a blood clot from another part of the body travels through veins deep in the body, it can become lodged in pulmonary veins (veins leading to the lungs) and cut off oxygen supply. This is often the result of DVT, though blood clots can also originate in the pulmonary veins. Blood pressure will buildup as a result of the blockage, causing the heart and lungs to work harder than usual. If the heart or lungs become too overworked they may fail.
Facts and Statistics About Deep Vein Thrombosis
- An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of DVT/ pulmonary embolism
- About 900,000 people are affected by DVT/ pulmonary embolism (PE) each year
- For about 25% of people with PE sudden death is the first symptom
- About 50% of all people with DVT will experience long-term complications
- Between 10% and 30% of people die within a month of receiving a diagnosis of DVT or pulmonary embolism
- Almost 33% of people with DVT/ PE will have a recurrence within 10 years.
Risk Factors of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
- Inherited condition that increases the risk of blood clottings like thrombophilia or Hughes Syndrome
- History of DVT
- Cancer and cancer treatments
- Smoking tobacco
- History of heart disease
- Restricted blood flow to a deep vein as a result of injury, surgery, or immobilization
- Pregnancy and first few weeks after birth
- Prolonged periods of inactivity, like sitting for a long period of time in a plane or car, or remaining in a hospital bed for a long period of time
- Obesity or being overweight
- Taking birth control bills or hormone therapy
- Central venues catheter or pacemaker
- Blood vessel damage
Warning Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is most common in one arm or leg. Symptoms can appear gradually if there is only a partial block of a vein, suddenly if a blood clot grows or travels quickly, or symptoms may not appear at all in some patients.
Symptoms can include:
- Gradual or sudden swelling in a leg or arm
- Increased warmth in a limb that is swollen or painful
- Pain or tenderness in affected leg
- Numbness or tingling in the affected limb
- Redness or change in color of skin
Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism can appear suddenly. PE is a potentially fatal condition, so people should alert their doctors at the first sign of PE symptoms.
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Chest and back pain
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid pulse and breathing
- Low blood pressure or Hypotention
Diagnosing Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis can be difficult to diagnose until serious symptoms appear; almost half of all patients with DVT do not experience any symptoms. But if multiple risk factors are present, doctors should take steps to prevent further symptoms or to diagnose DVT and begin treatment.
Symptoms of PE are serious and potentially life-threatening, so doctors or medical professional should be contacted immediately if symptoms appear.
DVT and PE are most often diagnosed with imaging tests that assess blood flow in veins and potential blockages. These tests include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
- Ultrasounds of potentially affected veins
- Ventilation-perfusion lung scanning (VQ scan) to compare blood and air flow
- Pulmonary angiography—doctors will insert a special dye into blood vessels in the lung to test circulation and look for blockages
- Chest x-ray
Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
The most common treatments for DVT and PE are blood thinners also called anticoagulants. Anticoagulants will not dissolve already existent blood clots but they will help prevent clots from growing and prevent new clots from forming. They are usually administered in pill form or as an injection.
If a blood clot has already formed, doctors may administer clotbuster drugs called thrombolytics that are injected directly into the clot in a non-surgical procedure. Doctors can also perform an angioplasty after a blood clot has been removed or dissolved to help keep the vein open with a stent or a small balloon.
Doctors may also recommend the use of compression stockings; stocking or socks that use pressure to ease blood flow through the legs.
The risk of developing DVT or PE can be reduced by following simple steps like:
- Taking medications to help prevent or dissolve blood clots when needed
- If in the hospital, getting out of bed and moving regularly as soon as possible after surgery
- Standing up, stretching, or walking during long flights or on breaks from long car rides
Lawsuits For Malpractice in Treating or Diagnosing Deep Vein Thrombosis in Maryland
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified hospital-acquired DVT and PE (when it develops as a result of hospital stays or surgery) as one of only nine conditions that should be preventable in almost 40% of all cases. Though the CDC focuses on hospital-acquired DVT and PE, all forms of DVT are often preventable through managing and remaining aware of risk factors. Some of the most common risk factors like obesity, long periods of immobility, and smoking tobacco, are all manageable and preventable.
Doctors should provide their patients with the knowledge they need to manage and prevent DVT and PE, and doctors should be alert to new symptoms in order to assess their significance. PE is a life-threatening condition that has its roots in DVT, so negligence in a doctor’s assessment and diagnosis of a patient with DVT or PE could prove fatal.
Malpractice in deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism often occurs while patients are in the hospital recovering after surgeries when doctors fail to take necessary preventative steps. Malpractice may also occur if doctors fail to understand or appreciate a patient’s medical history and risk factors of DVT and PE, preventing doctors from ordering diagnostic tests and helping patients understand preventative measures.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered from medical negligence in diagnosing or treating deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, call the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian today to learn about your legal options. Medical malpractice in DVT and PE often has serious and damaging results for patients. If you have suffered from medical malpractice in DVT or PE you may be eligible for compensation.