What are DVT and PE, and how are they related?

DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg, thigh, or pelvis and can also occur in the arm.

A PE is a blood clot in the lungs and is the most serious condition that can be caused by DVT. This happens when a DVT clot, or part of it, breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, reducing or cutting off blood supply. This can be deadly.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED BY DVT AND PE?

  • According to the CDC, DVT/PE affects as many as 900,000 Americans each year
  • PE can cause sudden death in about 25% of cases

Each year, as many as
900k Americans can be
affected by DVT/PE

CDC website; data from 2010

WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF DVT/PE?

Symptoms of DVT can include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Redness of the skin

Symptoms of PE
can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Faster than normal or
    irregular heartbeat
  • Coughing up blood
  • Low blood pressure, light-headedness, or fainting

When it comes to
these symptoms, this is
no time to wait.

Seeking medical attention early may help reduce the chances of DVT or PE becoming more serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away by phone, online, or in person.

Symptoms can also be associated with other potentially serious conditions not related to DVT/PE.
Only a healthcare provider can determine whether these symptoms indicate DVT/PE or another condition.

A PATIENT EXPERIENCE BEFORE BEING DIAGNOSED WITH PE

I had shortness of breath.
Over the course of a couple weeks
I actually started coughing up blood.”

a PE patient

Some people can have
DVT and/or PE
without
experiencing any symptoms.

About 50% of people who have
DVT may not experience any
symptoms at all.

What are the risk factors for DVT/PE?

There are some risk factors that may increase your chances of developing DVT/PE. These include:

  • Fractures
  • Severe muscle injury
  • Major surgery
  • Immobility/limited
    movement
  • Paralysis
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy, for up to 3 months
    after giving birth
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Cancer and its treatment
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Previous DVT/PE
  • Family history of DVT/PE
  • Inherited clotting disorders
  • Age (risk increases as
    age increases)
  • Obesity

How can I prepare for my doctor’s appointment?

Here are some tips that may help you make the most of your conversation with your doctor:

Write down your symptoms or concerns and when and how often they’ve occurred

Make a list of all the medications you’re currently taking

Make a list of any questions you have

Gather your insurance information to bring
to the visit

How is DVT or PE diagnosed?

Only a doctor can diagnose DVT or PE. If your doctor thinks you may have DVT or PE, a full physical examination may be necessary. There are several exams that a doctor might use to detect a DVT or PE blood clot:

For both DVT and PE:

A medical history is performed to collect and review recent medical history, including medications and surgeries.

A physical exam is performed by a healthcare provider to evaluate signs and symptoms, risk factors, and examine the affected area as well as heart rate and overall health.

Ultrasound uses a device placed over the part of your body where there’s a suspected blood clot and sends sound waves into the area. A computer transforms the waves into an image that can often show the presence of a clot.

Blood tests look for a substance called D-dimer, which is released when a blood clot dissolves. High levels of D-dimer may indicate the presence of a blood clot.

For PE only:

Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) is the most common imaging test to diagnose PE. Using a special dye that is injected into a vein, it can provide images of blood vessels in the lungs.

Chest x-rays can show images of your heart and lungs on film. While they can’t show if you have PE, they can rule out conditions that may mimic PE.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a magnetic field to provide images of the lung.

How can I prepare for my doctor’s appointment?

Here are some tips that may help you make the most of your conversation with your doctor:

Write down your symptoms or concerns and when and how often they’ve occurred

Make a list of all the medications you’re currently taking

Make a list of any questions you have

Gather your insurance information to bring to the visit

How is DVT or PE diagnosed?

Only a doctor can diagnose DVT or PE. If your doctor thinks you may have DVT or PE, a full physical examination may be necessary. There are several exams that a doctor might use to detect a DVT or PE blood clot:

For both DVT and PE:

A medical history is performed to collect and review recent medical history, including medications and surgeries.

A physical exam is performed by a healthcare provider to evaluate signs and symptoms, risk factors, and examine the affected area as well as heart rate and overall health.

Ultrasound uses a device placed over the part of your body where there’s a suspected blood clot and sends sound waves into the area. A computer transforms the waves into an image that can often show the presence of a clot.

Blood tests look for a substance called D-dimer, which is released when a blood clot dissolves. High levels of D-dimer may indicate the presence of a blood clot.

For PE only:

Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) is the most common imaging test to diagnose PE. Using a special dye that is injected into a vein, it can provide images of blood vessels in the lungs.

Chest x-rays can show images of your heart and lungs on film. While they can’t show if you have PE, they can rule out conditions that may mimic PE.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a magnetic field to provide images of the lung.

Seeking medical attention early may help reduce the chance of DVT or PE becoming more serious.

Familiarize yourself with DVT/PE symptoms and risk factors. It is also important to understand that you can experience symptoms or have risk factors but not have DVT/PE. You could also have DVT/PE and not experience any symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away by phone, online,
or in person.

If you have concerns about seeing your doctor in person during this time, check to see what safety
measures are in place at the doctor’s office. Your doctor may also offer a telehealth option.