‘Scarred’ clot more accurate term than ‘chronic’

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September 16, 2019 - 10:08 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 47-year-old woman. Five years ago, I developed a blood clot in my left leg after fracturing my ankle and being immobilized for several months. I was put on a blood thinner, and my ankle healed. Recently that leg started swelling again, and I went for an ultrasound. I was told that I have a chronic DVT, but that I don’t need blood thinners. Why do I not need a blood thinner now when I did before? What does “chronic” mean? Why am I getting swelling again five years after the first clot? — L.S.B.

Answer: Blood clots can happen in veins or arteries, but the type that happen due to surgery and immobilization are almost always in the vein. That’s the “V” in “DVT,” which stands for “deep vein thrombosis.” 

A brand-new blood clot has a high risk of propagating further up the vein, and also of breaking off and traveling through the vein into the heart. Most often, the clot will go on into the lungs, then called a “pulmonary embolus.” But in the rare case, the clot can go through a patent foramen ovale, which is sometimes called a hole in the heart, and cause a stroke.

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