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How Do Doctors Diagnose Deep Vein Thrombosis?

by April Maguire

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about vein treatment, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

DVT has been called a silent killer. These clots form inside the veins, and when they break away, they can become lodged in the lungs and cause an embolism, which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Given the risks that a DVT can bring, it's important for physicians to be able to detect them early. So what methods do doctors use to determine whether or not a patient has a DVT? Here is a quick rundown of the exams they might perform.


Classic DVT symptoms include pain, swelling and tenderness around the site of the clot. Once a physician determines that a DVT is likely, he or she will typically perform an ultrasound. This simple test uses sound waves to create an image of interior of the vein, allowing the doctor to see if there are any abnormalities. If an abnormality is detected visually, or if the doctor can't physically compress the vein by pushing down on it, then a DVT is likely. Additionally during an ultrasound test, the physician can detect any blood flow obstructions within the vein. If obstructions are found, then this is another indication that a DVT is present.

D-Dimer and MRI

When it comes to diagnosing DVT, ultrasounds are incredibly effective, and they catch between 60% and 90% of cases. Still, ultrasounds are sometimes inconclusive, so a doctor may use a secondary exam. One of these tests is known as a D-Dimer test. For this test, your physician will look for the presence of a certain kind of connective protein within your blood. These proteins are associated with clotting, and often appear when you suffer a scrape or a cut. If they're detected in your blood stream without an associated injury, then it's likely that a clot is present.

Alternatively, your physician may want to perform another kind of imaging exam called magnetic resonance imaging, or simply MRI. In some ways, an MRI is similar to an ultrasound in that it uses sound waves to create an image of the veins, but with an MRI the resulting image is more precise, allowing it to pick up clots that an ultrasound may miss. Overall, the MRI process is also more rigorous and more expensive than an ultrasound, but it tends to be more reliable when other DVT tests are inconclusive.

Even though DVT is potentially risky, doctors have a number of methods to combat it. Once a DVT is detected, doctors will typically prescribe anti-coagulants to break up the clot and eliminate the possibility of an embolism occurring.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about vein treatment, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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