Understanding DVT & PE Blood Clots

What You Need to Know

Having a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) can be unexpected and painful. We hope the following topics help you understand more about these potentially life-threatening blood clots and why they may have occurred, so you can help manage your treatment and help reduce your risk of repeat events.

What are DVT and PE blood clots?

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a vein—usually in the leg. If a DVT blood clot breaks off and travels through the veins to the lungs, it becomes a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can cause damage to the lungs and can be life threatening.

Risk Factors for DVT and PE Blood Clots

Though it is not always possible to pinpoint the exact reason you had a DVT or PE, there are risk factors that contribute to their onset. They include:

  • Cancer
  • Slow blood flow due to immobility during extended travel, after surgery, or during illness
  • Smoking
  • Certain medicines, like oral contraceptives, hormone therapy, or cancer treatments
  • Being overweight
  • Injury to a deep vein due to surgery or other trauma
  • Certain blood clotting disorders or a family history of blood clots
  • Being over 60 years of age

Treating Your DVT or PE Blood Clot

A blood thinner is commonly used to treat DVT and PE blood clots. These medicines can be delivered by injection or taken orally to help stop your blood clot from growing larger and help keep new ones from forming.

How long you will need to take a blood thinner varies. Some people will need to be on a blood thinner for 3–6 months, while others may need to continue taking a blood thinner indefinitely to reduce their risk for repeat blood clots.

The Risk of Repeat DVT and PE Blood Clots

If you’ve had a DVT or PE, your risk of having another one increases over time—especially once you stop being treated with a blood thinner:

  • 30% chance of a repeat event after 5 years
  • 40% chance of a repeat event after 10 years

What’s more, a study showed that future events can be more serious—even life threatening with up to 12% of repeat DVT or PE blood clots resulting in a fatal PE.

What’s My Risk for Having Another DVT or PE?

Some people may need to continue taking a blood thinner to reduce their underlying risk for having another DVT or PE, even after they have completed treatment for a blood clot. Sometimes, aspirin is used to help prevent repeat blood clots. But aspirin may not be enough, and your healthcare professional may instead recommend that you take a prescription blood thinner long term.

Risk factors for repeat events include:

  • You have been treated one or more times for blood clots
  • You have been treated for a PE
  • The cause of your DVT or PE is unknown
  • A DVT blood clot in the upper part of your leg
  • Cancer

What’s Next?

Read Learning About XARELTO® for more information about how XARELTO® treats your DVT or PE and helps reduce your risk of another one.