Venous Thromboembolism
Venous Thromboembolism

Venous Thromboembolism Treatment

Not everyone who is diagnosed with VTE needs treatment. If the blood clot needs treatment, your provider will likely prescribe medicine first. You may need a surgical procedure if you cannot take the medicine.


Blood thinners (anticoagulants)

Blood thinners keep blood clots from getting larger and stop new clots from forming. Conventional blood thinners include warfarin and heparin, but newer blood-thinning medicines called direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are also available. Your provider will work with you to determine which medicine is best for you based on your medical history.

Depending on the blood thinner, you may be given an injection (shot), take a pill, or have an intravenous tube (IV) inserted. You may need to take blood thinners for several months or for a lifetime. The specific amount of time depends on many factors, like the type of blood thinner and the cause of the blood clot (whether it occurred after a surgery or long flight, for example, or occurred without a known cause).

Possible side effects of blood thinners include bleeding, especially if you are taking other medicines such as aspirin that also thin your blood.

Medicines to dissolve blood clots (thrombolytics)

These medicines are used for large blood clots that cause severe symptoms or other serious complications. Because thrombolytics can cause sudden bleeding, they are used only for serious and potentially life-threatening VTE events, such as pulmonary embolism (PE). You will get this medicine through an IV.

Catheter-assisted blood clot removal

In some cases, including emergencies, your provider may need to do a catheter-assisted blood clot removal. This procedure uses a flexible tube called a catheter to reach a blood clot in your lung or your leg. Your provider can insert a tool in the tube to break up the clot or to deliver medicine through the tube. Usually, you will get medicine to make you unconscious and unable to feel pain for this procedure.

Vena cava filter

Some people who cannot take blood thinners may need a device called a vena cava filter to treat their deep vein thrombosis. The filter is inserted into a large vein (the vena cava). The filter catches blood clots before they travel to the lungs, which prevents pulmonary embolism. However, the filter does not stop new blood clots from forming. Healthcare providers usually do not recommend a filter if you have taken blood thinners.

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