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Complications of Deep-Vein Thrombosis

There are potential complications associated with deep vein thrombosis. The most common complications include pulmonary embolism, chronic venous insufficiency and post-thrombotic syndrome. A pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Seek treatment right away if you have any of the symptoms described below.

Outline of human torso showing heart, lungs, and major veins. Blood clot is in leg vein with arrow showing it traveling up vein to lung causing pulmonary embolism.

 

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when an embolus (a piece of blood clot) in the bloodstream travels through the heart and into the lungs. If the embolus becomes lodged in a blood vessel in the lungs, blood flow can be blocked. Symptoms can quickly develop and cause life-threatening heart and lung problems.

Seek Medical Attention

Seek medical attention right away if you have any of the following:  

  • Chest pain (call 911)

  • Trouble breathing or sudden shortness of breath (call 911)

  • Coughing up blood (call 911)

  • Fainting (call 911)

  • Skin turns blue (call 911)

  • Dizziness

  • Rapid, pounding, or unusual heartbeat

  • Sweating more than usual

  • Unusual swelling or pain in your leg

Chronic Venous Insufficiency and Post-Thrombotic Syndrome

If a blood clot remains in a vein for some time, it can cause severe damage including chronic venous insufficiency, which allows blood to pool in a leg vein. Chronic venous insufficiency can lead to persistent swelling and may or may not cause symptoms of discomfort and skin changes. However, it can progress to a post thrombotic syndrome. This causes ongoing pain, swelling, cramping, and skin damage. If the condition is not treated early, you can even develop open wounds on the leg called venous skin ulcers. Prompt medical attention is very important.

 

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