Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis

Vascular specialists at the Wake Forest Heart & Vascular Center provide superior care to help manage deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, serious conditions involving blood clots. 

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis? 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) happens when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in a calf or thigh muscle. DVT can cause moderate to life-threatening problems when a clot: 

  • Partly or completely blocks blood flow in your legs, causing chronic pain and swelling. 
  • Damages valves in blood vessels, making it difficult for you to move. 
  • Breaks free and travels through your bloodstream to your heart or lungs (known as pulmonary embolism). There, a clot can cause damage and even death within hours. 

What is a Pulmonary Embolism? 

A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage (usually a blood clot) in a lung artery and is most often a complication of deep vein thrombosis. A pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that can: 

  • Damage part of your lung because of a lack of blood flow 
  • Cause low oxygen levels in your blood 
  • Damage other organs in your body because of a lack of oxygen 
  • Lead to death if a blood clot is large or there are many clots 

Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism 

Only about half of the people who have DVT have signs and symptoms. These symptoms may affect one or both legs: 

  • Swelling in the legs or along a vein in the leg 
  • Pain or tenderness in the legs when standing or walking 
  • Warm feeling in the area of the leg that's swollen or painful 
  • Red or discolored skin on the affected leg 

You may not realize that you have a deep vein clot until you have signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism. Its symptoms include: 

  • Sudden shortness of breath 
  • Sharp chest pain that may become worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Coughing up blood 
  • Rapid heart rate or breathing 
  • Sweating 
  • Fainting 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Signs of shock

Diagnosing Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism 

Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism can be difficult to diagnose because their symptoms are similar to other conditions, including heart attack, pneumonia, panic attacks and others. Our team uses a range of advanced diagnostic tools to rule out other problems and confirm a diagnosis.

Common tests for pulmonary embolism are: 

  • Blood tests 
  • Cardiovascular imaging, including CT, MRI and echocardiogram 
  • Chest X-ray 
  • Diagnostic catheterization, including pulmonary angiogram 
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) 
  • Lung ventilation/perfusion scan to determine how well blood and oxygen are flowing through your lungs 

Common tests for deep vein thrombosis include: 

Learn more about heart and vascular diagnosis at Wake Forest. 

Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism at Wake Forest Baptist 

Our goal is to prevent blood clots from growing, affecting other organs (as in a pulmonary embolism) or recurring. In many cases, we will prescribe anticoagulants – medications that work as blood thinners. If you have a pulmonary embolism, may also prescribe clot-busting drugs called thrombolytics. 

In some cases, we may recommend a procedure to treat your clots. Learn more about endovascular surgery

Contact Us 

Request an appointment online. Or, for more information, please call: 

  • 336-716-WAKE or 
  • 888-716-WAKE (toll-free) 

 

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Last Updated: 05-27-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.