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Diagnosis of DVT and PE


The diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) requires special tests that can only be performed by a doctor. That is why it is important for you to seek medical care if you experience any of the symptoms of DVT or PE. Some of the tests that may be performed are listed below.


DVT is often diagnosed using:

  • Duplex ultrasound—It uses sound waves to evaluate the flow of blood in the veins.
  • Venography—If the duplex ultrasound does not provide a clear diagnosis, a venogram, a type of X ray, is used to look at the veins to see if clots are present.
  • D-dimer—A blood test that can be used to rule out a clot.

DVT also can be diagnosed using the following, less frequently used, tests:

  • In many cases, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide information that would not show up on an x-ray. This test is being used more frequently to diagnose DVT.
  • A computed tomography scan is a special type of x-ray that can provide pictures of structures inside the body. However, this test is rarely used to diagnose DVT.


Tests to find the location of and damage to the lungs caused by a PE include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT scan) of the lung, a special type of x-ray that can provide pictures of structures inside the body.
  • Pulmonary ventilation or perfusion scan, a special test looks at how the lung is working and if it is getting enough blood.
  • Pulmonary angiogram, the injection of a dye into the heart and then an x-ray, to look for clots in the lung.

Diagnosis Can Be Difficult

Unfortunately, there are other conditions whose symptoms are similar to those of DVT and PE. For example, muscle strains and swelling of veins close to the skin can mimic the symptoms of DVT. Heart attack and pneumonia have symptoms similar to those of PE. Therefore, it is difficult to diagnose either condition without tests.