Popliteal Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

The popliteal vein a deep vein behind the knee.  A DVT is a clot that forms in this vein.  This is a diagnosis which needs prompt diagnosis and treatment.  A popliteal vein clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs.  This can sometimes be lethal.

What is popliteal vein thrombosis?

Popliteal vein thrombosis is when a clot forms in the vein.

A blood clot is a clump of blood which is helpful to stop bleeding.  This can however form in the veins as well where the clot poses a danger.

Symptoms of popliteal vein thrombosis

There can be pain and swelling of the leg.  The skin may be red and warm.

How is popliteal vein thrombosis diagnosed?

Popliteal vein thrombosis is diagnosed with ultrasound.  Ultrasound will also examine the other veins of the leg.

We can sometimes see a clot in the popliteal vein when we do CT or MRI.

A venogram is rarely done for diagnosis.  This is a test where a catheter is placed into the veins under X-ray and contrast is injected.

What does popliteal vein thrombosis look like on imaging?

A popliteal vein thrombus is usually diagnosed with ultrasound.  Ultrasound uses sound waves to form an image of the body.

We will often see the clot directly using ultrasound.  The technologist doing the ultrasound will not be able to compress the vein because it is filled with clot.  There will be either partial or complete lack of blood flow in the vein.

A CT is rarely used to diagnose blood clots.  A CT venogram is an exam focused on the veins.  We can see a popliteal vein clot as a dark spot or filling defect.

MRI can sometimes identify a clot when done for other reasons.  We can sometimes see the clot itself.  There may be edema or swelling in the tissues surrounding the clot.

X-rays have no place in the diagnosis of popliteal vein thrombus.

What else can look like popliteal vein thrombosis in radiology?

We usually make a confident diagnosis of popliteal vein thrombus on ultrasound.  We can not tell the age of the clot at times.

What causes popliteal vein thrombosis?

Popliteal vein thrombus is associated with many conditions and risk factors.  Surgery, immobilization after trauma or fractures, pregnancy, cancer, certain genetic conditions, and hormone therapy.

Is popliteal vein thrombosis dangerous?

Yes.  It can be dangerous because the clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs.  This can prevent the lung from getting blood flow and cause tissue death.  At times, this can be lethal.

What type of doctor treats popliteal vein thrombosis?

Popliteal vein thrombus is often diagnosed in emergency rooms.  Popliteal vein thrombosis is also diagnosed and treated by primary care physicians and specialists.

Popliteal vein thrombosis treatment

Treatment is often with anticoagulation or blood thinners.  At times, more aggressive treatment is indicated with medicines which break the clot up directly or invasive procedures.

Popliteal vein thrombosis: summary

Popliteal vein thrombosis involves a clot in the vein behind your knee.  This is dangerous because the clot can dislodge and go to the lungs.  The blood clot in the popliteal vein is diagnosed most commonly with ultrasound.  Blood thinners are most commonly used to treat popliteal vein thrombosis.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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