The prevalence of inactivity, weight gain and surgery become more pronounced as we age and can increase the risk of developing a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is the development of a clot in a vein deep inside your body, which can obstruct blood flow through the vein and damage the vein’s internal valves.
While DVT is a fairly common condition, especially in people over 65, if a blood clot breaks away and travels through your bloodstream, it could block a blood vessel in your lungs. This blockage (called a pulmonary embolism) severely affect a person’s ability to breath, or can even be fatal.
Most pulmonary emboli result from deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Most clots develop in the leg or pelvis.
DVT and pulmonary embolism are usually treated with anticoagulation, which will help the body dissolve some of the clot. However, some people benefit from having the clot removed, or dissolved.
Venous thrombectomy or thrombolysis is the removal of a clot in a large vein. When combined with one or more of the following treatments, venous thrombectomy has a success rate of 70 to 100 percent:
- Thrombolysis (dissolving the clot with medicine)
- Anticoagulant medications also known as “blood thinners”; or
- Placement of vena cava filter to filter clots traveling from the legs so a clot cannot reach the lung.
Patients with an acute (new) clot in the leg veins are prime candidates for a venous thrombectomy or thrombolysis depending on how large the clot is. However, even old clots have options for intervention such as balloon (venoplasty) or stent insertion. Venoplasty is a procedure that involves inserting an inflatable balloon to widen the vein and improve blood flow. Sometimes a tiny tube (stent) is inserted in the vein to keep the vein open.