Symptoms are different when the blood clot breaks loose. The clots may travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). Symptoms of PE include chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid pulse or a cough. PE is often mistaken for a heart attack and can be just as deadly.
A thorough examination of the legs by a vascular specialist using an ultrasound scan can confirm diagnosis of a clot. For most DVTs, physicians recommend immediate “blood thinning” (taking anticoagulant medications to prevent additional blood clotting or PE), wearing graduated compression stockings for at least a year, immediate ambulation and elevation of the leg at rest. In severe symptomatic cases or if the DVT is extensive, thrombolytic therapy may be recommended. These patients should be evaluated by a vascular surgeon. This therapy uses intravenous medication or mechanical devices to dissolve or remove the clots. Thrombectomy is another procedure in which the clot is extracted using catheters or surgery. Effective treatment prevents PE in more than 95% of cases.