Table of Contents
- Blood clot facts
- What are blood clots? What does a blood clot look like?
- What causes blood clots (blood clots in veins or arteries)?
- What causes blood clots (blood clots in the heart, leaking, and other causes)?
- What are the risk factors for blood clots?
- What types of conditions are caused by blood clots (DVT and pulmonary embolism)?
- What types of conditions are caused by blood clots (AFib, atrial thrombosis, and others)?
- What are the signs and symptoms of blood clots?
- What kind of doctors treat blood clots?
- How are blood clots diagnosed?
- What tests are used to diagnose blood clots?
- What is the treatment for blood clots?
- What are the complications of blood clots?
- How can blood clots be prevented?
Quick GuideDeep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
What kind of doctors treat blood clots?
A variety of different specialists may be involved in the care of a patient with a blood clot, depending upon the exact type and location of the clot. These can include internists, family medicine specialists, interventional radiologists, surgeons, cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, neurologists, or critical care specialists.
How are blood clots diagnosed?
The first step in making the diagnosis of a blood clot is talking to the patient and family to understand the situation. The blood clot itself does not cause a problem. It's the location of the blood clot and its effect on blood flow that causes symptoms and signs. If a blood clot or thrombus is a consideration, the history may expand to explore risk factors or situations that might put the patient at risk for forming a clot.
Venous blood clots often develop slowly with a gradual onset of swelling, pain, and discoloration. Symptoms of a venous thrombus will often progress over hours.
Arterial thrombi occur as an acute event. Tissues need oxygen immediately, and the loss of blood supply creates a situation in which symptoms begin immediately.
There may be symptoms that precede the acute artery blockage that may be warning signs of the potential future complete occlusion of the blood vessel.
- Patients with an acute heart attack may experienceangina or chest discomfort (pressure, pain, indigestion, fatigue) in the days and weeks prior to the heart attack.
- Patients with peripheral artery disease may have pain with walking (claudication)
- ATIA (transient ischemia attack, mini-stroke) in which the symptoms resolve without treatment may precede a stroke.
Physical examination can assist in providing additional information that may increase the suspicion for a blood clot.
- Vital signs may be helpful in deciding how stable the patient is doing. These include blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, body temperature and oxygen saturation (what percentage of red blood cells have oxygen attached).
- Heart monitoring and an EKG may be ordered to assess heart rate and rhythm.
- Venous thrombi may cause swelling of an extremity (arms, legs). It may be red, warm, and tender; sometimes the appearance is difficult to distinguish from cellulitis or an infection of the extremity. If there is concern about a pulmonary embolus, the doctor may examine the lungs to listen for abnormal sounds caused by an area of inflamed lung tissue.
- Arterial thrombus symptoms are much more dramatic. If a leg or arm is involved, the tissue may be white because of the lack of blood supply. Also, it may be cool to touch and there may be loss of sensation and movement (paralysis). The patient may be writhing in pain.
Arterial thrombus is also the cause of heart attack and stroke (cerebrovascular accident) and their associated symptoms.
Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012;141(2_suppl):
Dzsheka MS, et al. Stroke and bleeding risk in atrial fibrillation. Clin Cardiol.2014, Oct, 37(10)
Medscape. Deep Vein Thrombosis and Thrombophlebitis.
Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.
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