Deep vein thrombosis

If you’ve had deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or are at risk of having it, you want care from experts who can help you prevent blood clots.

The University of Iowa Heart & Vascular Center offers 24/7 testing for DVT, so you’re diagnosed and referred for treatment quickly. And our vascular surgeons specialize in treating all types of DVT. This includes DVT that:

  • Can be linked to a specific event, like surgery or a long car ride
  • Was caused by a medical condition such as May-Thurner syndrome
  • Has no known cause
  • Doesn’t respond to standard treatments

Our vascular surgeons are also skilled at identifying the best short- and long-term treatments based on your medical history and risk factors. We aim to prevent DVT from occurring or recurring, and we make sure you receive the most effective treatments with the fewest side effects.

Deep vein thrombosis symptoms

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms inside one of the veins found in muscles. These blood clots usually develop in the legs.

Seek prompt medical care if you have any of these DVT symptoms:

  • Leg pain, especially in your calf
  • One leg that’s noticeably warm to the touch
  • Sudden skin reddening or discoloration in a leg
  • Swelling in one leg

If the blood clot is left untreated, a piece of it could break off and travel toward your lungs. On the way, it could get stuck in one of the main arteries that leads to your lungs. This is a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.

Signs of pulmonary embolism

Call 911 if you have any of these signs of pulmonary embolism—especially if you have a history or symptoms of DVT:

  • Chest pain that gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Shortness of breath

Deep vein thrombosis treatment from UI Health Care

No matter what caused your DVT, you’ll get the treatments you need from the UI Heart & Vascular Center’s vascular surgeons.

Your treatment plan will depend on several factors, including:

  • Your medical history
  • Your risk of DVT recurrence
  • The size and location of your blood clot

Standard DVT treatments

In many cases, DVT can be treated and prevented with nonsurgical treatments. These include:

  • Compression stockings: You may need to wear snug, knee-length socks during the day for several months or longer. These socks help prevent the blood in your legs from pooling, which increases the risk of clotting. Even if you don’t have to wear compression stockings regularly, your doctor may recommend you wear them in certain situations. These include long car rides and airplane travel.
  • Blood thinners: Also known as anticoagulation therapy, blood thinners are a type of prescription medicine. They help prevent existing blood clots from getting bigger, and reduce the risk of new blood clots. Depending on the cause of your DVT and your risk of future blood clots you may need to take blood thinners for several months or years.

Advanced DVT treatments

You may need more aggressive treatment if blood thinners don’t work or if you have a large blood clot.

Our advanced DVT treatments include:

  • Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters: We can implant a special filter into one of the large veins in your abdomen. The filter traps blood clots so they can’t move up into your lungs. This procedure is usually reserved for people who can’t take blood thinners or who need to temporarily stop taking them before having surgery. We can also remove your IVC filter if you don’t need it permanently.
  • Thrombolysis: This procedure uses flexible tubes called catheters to get rid of an existing blood clot. Your provider will either dissolve the clot by injecting special medication into the vein, or break up the clot and suction it out using a special machine.

After you’re treated for DVT, you’ll probably need short- or long-term follow-up care to make sure you haven’t developed any more blood clots. Your provider will let you know how often you’ll need to be seen and what tests you may need.

Treating complex causes of DVT

If you’ve had DVT more than once despite treatment, you may need advanced testing to pinpoint what’s causing your blood clots.

Our vascular surgeons work closely with UI Health Care hematologists who specialize in blood disorders. Together we can test for certain conditions that can cause your blood to clot too easily. These conditions include inherited disorders such as factor V Leiden and prothrombin gene mutations.

By confirming the underlying cause of your blood clots, we can adjust your treatments as needed. This can further reduce your risk of DVT, and it reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications of blood clotting disorders.

Do you think you might have DVT?

If you have leg swelling or other DVT symptoms, call your regular medical provider or visit the emergency room. If you also have signs of pulmonary embolism, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, call 911.

Nationally accredited vascular imaging

UI Health Care/s vascular laboratory is accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC). This means we have the proper equipment and our staff has the proper training to perform accurate vascular disease testing.

Care Team