​March is DVT Awareness Month

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on March 23, 2022 # Health

What is deep vein thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious medical condition caused when blood fails to circulate and forms clots in the deep veins of the body. These blood clots, often found in the lower leg or thigh, become dangerous if they break away and move to the lungs, blocking blood flow, and causing pulmonary embolism.

Lack of mobility including bedrest is one of the leading predictors of DVT. Injuries, surgery and paralysis increase the risk of developing DVT, making it critical that people living with spinal cord injuries remain alert to signs and symptoms.

What are the symptoms of DVT?

  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Tenderness, pain, or cramping in the affected area. Please note you may not feel pain unless your spinal cord injury is incomplete
  • Redness and/or warm feeling in the skin
  • Autonomic dysreflexia if the neurologic level of injury is T6 or above

What are the symptoms of pulmonary embolism?

Unfortunately, DVT can develop without any symptoms. People living with spinal cord injuries should therefore be aware of warning signs indicating pulmonary embolism.

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain, made worse by taking deep breaths or coughing
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Coughing up blood

If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of either DVT or pulmonary embolism, seek medical help immediately.

What is the treatment for DVT?

Doctors will treat blood clots with anticoagulation medicine - commonly known as blood thinners - which slow down the formation of existing clots and prevent new growths. Patients with spinal cord injuries are generally given anticoagulants within 72 hours of their injuries and treated for eight weeks.

Regular use of compression stockings, tightly fitting socks designed to apply pressure to the legs and help blood circulate, can help prevent DVT.

Download a DVT wallet card from the Reeve Foundation

Carrying a DVT wallet card with your personal information and directions for treatment that can be shared with first responders can help in the event of a DVT crisis. Download a DVT wallet card, our DVT factsheet, or call 800-539-7309 to have one mailed to you.

For more information about DVT, watch our video here.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.