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Treatments of DVT and PE

spilled bottle of pills and shot vilesDVT

Medication is used to prevent and treat DVT. Anticoagulants (blood thinners) are the medicines most commonly used. Although called blood thinners, these medications do not actually thin the blood. They work by stopping the clotting process and preventing the clot from becoming larger. The most frequently used medications are heparin, low molecular weight heparin (LMWH), and warfarin. All of these medications can cause bleeding, so people taking them have to be monitored to prevent unusual bleeding.


Initial treatment of a clot is usually with heparin. Heparin is a powerful anticoagulant that is given IV (through a needle placed in the vein) or by an injection that works very quickly to stop clotting. Heparin is usually given while a person is in the hospital. Because heparin can cause bleeding, a person has to be monitored closely to prevent bleeding.


LMWH is similar to heparin, but is given by an injection under the skin. People who take LMWH do not require frequent blood tests to monitor for bleeding, so this drug can be given at home.


Warfarin (Coumadin™) is a medicine that is taken by mouth. Warfarin works to stop clotting but because it takes some time to become effective it is usually started while a person is taking heparin or LMWH. Once it is effective the heparin is stopped and a person continues treatment with warfarin at home. People who take warfarin have to be monitored with frequent blood tests to see how the drug is working and to make sure that they are not at risk of bleeding. While taking warfarin it is important to eat a consistent diet and let your health care provider know if you change medications, because many foods and other medications affect the way that warfarin works.

Compression stockings

Compression stockings (also called graduated compression stockings) are sometimes recommended to prevent DVT and relieve pain and swelling. These might need to be worn for 2 years or more after having DVT.


In severe cases, the clot might need to be removed surgically.


Emergency treatment at a hospital is necessary to treat PE. In cases of severe, life-threatening PE, there are medicines that can dissolve the clot (thrombolytics) and medicines that prevent more clots from forming (anticoagulants).

Surgery is sometimes needed for patients at great risk for another PE.

Research and Treatment Centers

CDC supports the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Centers Research and Treatment Centers to foster collaborative epidemiologic research designed to identify risks for DVT/PE among the U.S. population and ultimately to improve diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. The centers collect data from patients of all ages and races while providing services to patients with DVT/PE and other thrombotic conditions. Currently, CDC funds five centers. These centers have multidisciplinary teams of health care specialists and state-of-the art clinical research programs that provide outreach and education programs for patients. Below is the contact information for these centers.

Find a research and treatment center »

A chromosome contains a single, long piece of DNA with many different genes. Every human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. There are 22 pairs of numbered chromosomes, called autosomes, and one pair of sex chromosomes, which can be XX or XY. Each pair contains two chromosomes, one from each parent, which means that children get half of their chromosomes from their mother and half from their father.

A gene is a part of DNA that carries the information needed to make a protein. People inherit one copy of each gene from their mother and one copy from their father. The genes that a person inherits from his or her parents can determine many things. For example, genes affect what a person will look like and whether the person might have certain diseases.

DNA is made up of two strands that wind around each other and looks like a twisting ladder. A DNA strand is made up of four different “bases” arranged in different orders. These bases are T (thymine), A (adenine), C (cytosine), and G (guanine). DNA is “read” by the order of the bases, that is by the order of the Ts, Cs, Gs, and As. The specific order, or sequence, of these bases determines the exact information carried in each gene (for example, instructions for making a specific protein). DNA has the same structure in every gene and in almost all living things.

A mutation is a change in a DNA sequence. DNA mutations in a gene can change what protein is made. Mutations present in the eggs and sperm (germline mutations) can be passed on from parent to child, while mutations that occur in body cells (somatic mutations) cannot be inherited.

A protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. The main role of DNA is to act as the instructions for making proteins. It is actually proteins that make up most of the structures in our bodies and perform most of life’s functions. For example, proteins make up hair and skin. Proteins in our eyes change shape in response to light so we can see. Proteins in our bodies break down food. Proteins are made in cells and are the major parts of cells, which are the vital working units of all living things.

Environmental factors can include exposures related to where we live as well as behaviors such as smoking and exercise and cultural factors such as foods that we eat.


Webinar on VTE. November 6, 2014 2-3PM EDT Save the Date. Click here for more info.

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