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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of the lower limbs

About deep vein thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in one of your leg veins. DVT can sometimes cause a very serious condition called pulmonary embolism, which is a clot in one of your lungs.


Because DVT can be serious, if you suspect you might have one, or if you are experiencing any symptoms of a DVT, see your GP as soon as possible.

Symptoms of DVT include:

Some people are more at risk of DVT. Risk factors can include:

Diagnosing and treating a DVT

Symptoms of DVT include swelling and pain in the lower legYour doctor will assess you and decide how likely it is that you are experiencing DVT. If it's possible you might have a DVT, you may need to have an ultrasound of the affected leg, a blood test, or both. The ultrasound is likely to be free of charge under the public health system, however, you may prefer to pay to have this done privately in Christchurch, Dunedin or Nelson.

If the ultrasound or blood test shows you do have a DVT, you will most likely need treatment with blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medication. Your GP may manage this treatment with support from the Community Nursing Service.

Reducing your risk of having another DVT

Your doctor may suggest some tests to find out what caused your DVT. To reduce the risk of further problems, your doctor may suggest you wear compression stockings, but they're not suitable for everyone.

If you wear compression stockings, you can buy a device to help you put them on. This video shows you how to use one of these devices. You can buy a device like this at your local health and mobility shop.

Some people may be at high risk of having another DVT. If you are one of these people, you may be advised to continue taking blood-thinning medication, or to take it in circumstances where you might be at risk of another DVT.

In the future, always tell your doctor or nurse that you've had a DVT, even if you don't know if it is relevant to what you're being treated for.

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Written by Haematology Department, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Last reviewed August 2016.

Page reference: 186623

Review key: HIDVT-21919