Treating blood clots

Be aware: Blockages or clots can be serious and even life threatening if they spread or break up and travel to the lungs. Luckily keyhole surgery is now available to clear these blockages or clots.
Be aware: Blockages or clots can be serious and even life threatening if they spread or break up and travel to the lungs. Luckily keyhole surgery is now available to clear these blockages or clots.

A lot of us have heard the term Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) but are unsure what it really is, what are the symptoms, what is the best treatment and what are the long term effects to our lives.

A blockage or clot that occurs inside the deep veins, usually of the legs, is known as DVT.

Our veins in the legs are the furthest away from the heart and therefore have the most pressure to drain the blood back through these channels to the heart. Blockages or  clots can be serious and even life threatening if they spread or break up and travel to the lungs.

Previously patients were put on long-term medications such as Warfarin which require regular blood tests and dietary modification or painful injections but DVT can now be removed by keyhole treatments.

So how would we know we are experiencing a DVT?

  • Pain and swelling of the affected leg
  • Cramping pain in your affected leg that usually begins in your calf
  • Warmth of the area or the skin over the affected area
  • 50 per cent of DVTs may be silent showing no symptoms at all - no pain and no swelling

Now, new minimally invasive devices mean clots can be cleared in just one procedure, according to Dr Andrew Bullen, a vascular specialist in Wollongong.

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“Recent advancements in keyhole surgery tools mean that clots in the large veins can be dissolved by a treatment called thrombolysis.

“We can clear blockages up to four weeks old, sometimes even older with a minimally invasive technique. This restores blood flow in the body’s natural channels and relieves the pain and swelling.

“Traditional treatment included blood thinning medication to try and stop the clot from progressing but couldn’t dissolve it. With the advanced treatment a patient can now be freed of the clot within a few hours.”

Dr Andrew Bullen and his colleagues at Wollongong Hospital are at the forefront of this treatment in Australia. DVT is a serious medical condition so call your doctor right away if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of DVT, or go to the closest emergency room.

If you are concerned you may be at risk, or have a family history of blood clots, schedule an appointment with Dr Bullen today on 4226 9333.

Risk factors

“The larger part of the population experiences risk factors for deep vein thrombosis throughout life as a one-off,” Dr Andrew Bullen said.

“Other risks to add include being middle age, slightly overweight and injuries to the knee.

“Normal everyday people in everyday life situations can experience a DVT.”

Risk factors include pregnancy and postpartum, heart and respiratory failure, obesity, surgery, trauma, immobility, increasing age, smoking, varicose veins, May-Thurner syndrome, cancer or estrogen therapy, acute medical illness, inflammatory bowel or kidney disease and inherited or acquired thrombophilia.

“If you have had a previous DVT or blood disorders, the risk of another clot is as high as 40 per cent,” Dr Bullen said.

“The cause needs to be investigated with ultrasound scans and blood tests.”