Deep vein thrombosis
Deep-vein thrombosis (also known as deep-venous thrombosis or DVT and colloquially as economy class syndrome) is the formation of a blood clot ("thrombus") in a deep vein. It commonly affects the leg veins, such as the femoral vein or the popliteal vein or the deep veins of the pelvis. Occasionally the veins of the arm are affected (known as Paget-SchrÃ¶tter disease). Thrombophlebitis is the more general class of pathologies of this kind.
Signs and symptoms
There may be no symptoms referrable to the location of the DVT, but the classical symptoms of DVT include pain, swelling and redness of the leg and dilatation of the surface veins. In up to 25% of all hospitalized patients, there may be some form of DVT, which often remains clinically inapparent (unless pulmonary embolism develops).
There are several techniques during physical examination to increase the detection of DVT, such as measuring the circumference of the affected and the contralateral limb at a fixed point (to objectivate edema), and palpating the venous tract, which is often tender. Physical examination is unreliable for excluding the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis.
A careful history has to be taken considering risk factors (see below), including the use of estrogen-containing methods of hormonal contraception, recent long-haul flying, and a history of miscarriage (which is a feature of several disorders that can also cause thrombosis). A family history can reveal a hereditary factor in the development of DVT.
It is vital that the possibility of pulmonary embolism be included in the history, as this may warrant further investigation.
Complications As a complication, post-thrombotic syndrome can develop. Post-phlebitic syndrome occurs in 10% of patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It presents with leg oedema, pain, nocturnal cramping, venous claudication, skin pigmentation, dermatitis and ulceration (usually on the medial aspect of the lower leg). In phlegmasia alba dolens, the leg is pale and cool with a diminished arterial pulse due to spasm. It usually results from acute occlusion of the iliac and femoral veins due to DVT. In phlegmasia cerulea dolens, there is an acute and nearly total venous occlusion of the entire extremity outflow, including the iliac and femoral veins. The leg is usually painful, cyanosed and oedematous. Venous gangrene may supervene.
It should be noted that the most significant cardiovascular risk for transgender women who are on Hormone Replacement Therapy is the pro-thrombotic effect of estrogens. (Increased blood clotting.) This manifests most significantly as an increased risk for thromboembolic disease: deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) which occurs when DVTs break off and migrate through the venous system to the lungs. It is important for any person on female hormones to immediately seek medical care if she develops pain or swelling of one leg (especially calf) as this is the predominant symptom of a DVT, or if she develops symptoms of PE: chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, or palpitations (even without leg pain or swelling). In practice this becomes very important to transgender women undergoing surgery. Hormones should be withheld for a week before until two weeks after surgery.
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