An ultrasound of the leg is often ordered when your doctor suspects a deep vein thrombus. This often presents with leg swelling, redness and pain.
The danger is that you can develop a pulmonary embolism or a clot that travels to the lungs. This can be life threatening in some cases.
Therefore prompt detection of this condition is necessary. More chronic consequences can include pain in the leg that lasts after treatment.
What is DVT?
This is a blood clot in a deep vein. This is a vein that is not near the skin.
Why is DVT dangerous?
A DVT of the leg can dislodge, travel to the lung through the blood, and block blood flow. This can cause a potentially life threatening condition.
When to get an ultrasound for DVT
Usually an ultrasound of the leg looking for DVT will be ordered when there are symptoms like leg pain and swelling. Your doctor may order an ultrasound for DVT when he suspects there is a clot based on his examination.
What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis?
Some patients can have no symptoms. Symptoms can include swelling, pain, warm skin, redness, and swollen veins.
What does DVT look like on ultrasound?
A blood clot or DVT is diagnosed when the vein can not be compressed by the technologist. We will often see partial to complete lack of blood flow. We will often see the clot directly on ultrasound as well.
What are some risk factors for a DVT in the leg?
Lack of movement like being in a plane or long car ride, prior surgery, pregnancy, birth control pills, obesity, certain genetic conditions and cancer are some of the risk factors.
What causes blood clots in legs?
Blood clots occur when the blood doesn’t flow normally and becomes thicker and clumped. This can reduce or block flow of blood.
Why is a clot in a deep vein more dangerous?
A clot in a deep vein has a risk of traveling through the blood and going to the lungs. This can cause potentially life threatening symptoms.
Can a blood clot of the leg be missed on ultrasound?
Yes, sometimes a small clot can be overlooked. This is a limitation of ultrasound and the technologist doing the exam.
How is an ultrasound of the leg for DVT done?
The ultrasound will be done by a specially trained technologist. She will usually start at the groin and work her way down to the calf examining the veins. She may occasionally compress the veins as she works down the leg.
Who will read an ultrasound of the leg for DVT?
A radiologist will interpret the study in many cases. An ultrasound of the leg for DVT will often be read as acute blood clot, chronic blood clot or no clot.
The radiologist will describe the location and extent of the clot. He will also comment on blood flow in that vein. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow.
We will also often make a comment on any cysts behind the knee called baker’s cysts.
Blood clot of the leg treatments
Your doctor will treat a deep vein blood clot with blood thinners. This will prevent the clot from getting bigger and forming new clots. You may be required to take blood thinners for 3 months or longer.
In some cases where the clot is extensive, a specially trained interventional radiologist may try to break up the clot directly with clot buster (thrombolytics) placed directly into the clot in the vein.
IVC filters are placed into the inferior vena cava if you can not take blood thinners. This prevents the blood clot in the leg from getting to your lungs.
DVT Of The Leg On Ultrasound: Summary
DVT of the leg on ultrasound is a blood clot in a deep vein of the leg. This is dangerous because the clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs. A DVT may be asymptomatic or cause pain and swelling of the leg. A DVT is often diagnosed by ultrasound of the leg.