Living with DVT/Blood Clots
While a pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, most patients survive DVT and need to learn how to live with the risk of recurrence. Your healthcare provider will probably prescribe anticoagulants, or blood thinners, which may be needed for as little as three months but can be lifelong treatment. The length of treatment depends on the underlying cause. Appropriate caution must be taken due to the bleeding risk when on anticoagulants.
Your physician may complete a "hypercoagulability" evaluation on you at some point after your diagnosis. This could include a number of blood tests looking for a genetic cause of your DVT. If there is no identifiable risk factor, your physician may recommend additional tests to search for other health conditions.
In the rare circumstances in which blood thinners cannot be used or do not seem to be working, your physician may suggest an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter. The filter is surgically inserted inside a large vein called the vena cava. The filter catches blood clots from the legs before they travel to the lungs, which prevents pulmonary embolism. However, the filter doesn't stop new blood clots from forming. If your physician suggests this as an appropriate device for you, be sure to have an in-depth discussion to fully understand the risks and benefits.
Post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS), can be a long-term complication, of patients after a DVT. Often, the more severe and extensive the DVT is, the greater likelihood of developing PTS. To prevent PTS, physicians may often prescribe compression stockings to help decrease swelling. Your physician may also advise you to keep your feet elevated whenever possible.
Pulmonary hypertension is a rare complication that can occur in some patients after a pulmonary embolism. The majority of pulmonary embolisms eventually go away, but sometimes they can lead to an increase in the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. Your physician may order a test of your pulmonary artery pressure, especially if you have worsening shortness of breath despite treatment with anticoagulants.
There are many resources available to patients looking for more information. Some include:
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed December 13, 2016.
Page Last Updated: July 23, 2019