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Speaking fluent DVT

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Learn the jargon, feel empowered

Why learn to speak DVT?

Speaking the DVT medical language can help you feel more confident about your treatment and condition. You may have noticed that doctors and nurses have a tendency to speak in rapid-fire jargon, or alternatively may gloss over points that they feel are too “medical”. If you want to have a better understanding of what your doctor is saying and the ability to follow up with more detailed questions, then knowing the jargon can take you a long way.

You will also find that this skill is helpful if you decide to research your condition online. Knowing the jargon can help you narrow your search, identify more medically focused, academic papers to read, and it can even help you separate the experts from the non-experts online.

Useful terms

Anti Xa factor

A key mechanism in the clotting process that can be inhibited by a number of anticoagulation medication

Anticoagulant

The technical term for a medicine that prolongs the time it takes for the blood to clot. Although commonly referred to as “blood thinners”, anticoagulants do not actually thin the blood.

Blood clot

The gel-like form that blood takes when it forms a plug, often as the result of an injury to the vessel wall. If this happens in a deep vein (like in the leg) then the clot can interrupt the normal flow of blood. (See also: Thrombus, Embolus & Coagulation)

Cancer Associated Thrombosis (CAT)

Used to identify patients whose blood clot, or thrombus, was caused in part by their cancer or cancer treatment.

Coagulation

A medical term for the clotting process, when blood changes from a liquid form to a thick clot with a gel-like consistency.

CT Scan (Computerised Tomography)

A scan that allows your doctor to see your organs in a 2- dimensional image.

D-dimer blood test

A test that detects the breakdown products of a clot. A negative result means there is no evidence of a thrombus. A positive test requires further investigation.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

The condition that describes when a blood clot, or thrombus, develops in a deep vein. (See also: Thrombus & PE)

Embolus

A piece of thrombus that has broken away from the main clot.

Impedance plethysmography

An ultrasound exam that can be performed on the legs in order to detect formation of a thrombus. It is non- invasive and performed by moving a hand-held device up and down along the legs.

International normalized radio (INR)

A test that indicates how your warfarin prescription is working and whether adjustments are needed. The target INR range for warfarin therapy is between 2 and 3.

Low molecular weight heparin

An anticoagulant medication (derived from heparin, see ‘Unfractionated heparin’ below) that is injected in order to prevent blood clots from growing larger and prevent new clots from forming. It works by inhibiting something called the “coagulation cascade”, which is the series of steps and triggers that blood undergoes in order to form a clot.

Lung scan or Ventilation Perfusion Scan (VQ scan)

A test used to identify pulmonary embolism (PE). It allows doctors to examine air and blood flow in the lungs.

Plethysmography

See: Impedance plethysmography

Post thrombotic syndrome (PTS)

A term used to describe the long-term effects that can follow from a DVT. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, itching or tingling, skin discolouration and leg ulcers.

Pulmonary angiogram

An X-ray image of the lung’s blood vessels that is used to detect a pulmonary embolism (PE). In this procedure, a special contrast dye is injected into blood vessels via the groin or arm. As the dye shows up in X- ray images, it allows practitioners to identify a PE.

Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

The condition that describes when a thrombus (or piece of a thrombus) has travelled from its original location, through the heart and on to the lungs. PE can be life threatening, so call an ambulance or  consult a physician immediately if you think you have one.

Thrombus

If a blood clot remains stationary instead of dissolving as it should, it is referred to as a “thrombus”.

Unfractionated Heparin (UFH)

Heparin initiates anticoagulation rapidly but has a short duration of action. It is often referred to as ‘standard’ or ‘unfractionated heparin’ to distinguish it from the low molecular weight heparins (see Low Molecular Weight Heparins), which have a longer duration of action. Although a low molecular weight heparin is generally preferred for routine use, unfractionated heparin can be used in those at high risk of bleeding because its effect can be terminated rapidly by stopping the infusion.

Venogram

A less-common test that identifies blood clots in the leg by injecting a special dye into a vein on the foot. An X-ray is then used to identify if there is a clot.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE)

The formation of blood clots in the vein. When a clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg, it is called a deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If that clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism or PE. DVT and PE are collectively referred to as VTE.

Vitamin K antagonists (VKA)

An anticoagulant that reduces clotting by inhibiting the body’s Vitamin K enzyme, which is essential for producing proteins that enable the clotting process.

Warfarin

A prescription anticoagulant in tablet form. It helps prevent further growth of a clot and may be used in conjunction with other treatments. As each person responds differently to warfarin, regular blood tests are used to to measure the INR (see International Normalised Ratio above)

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