Blood clots

What are blood clots?

Blood clots are clumps of protein that occur when blood hardens from a liquid to a solid. A clot that forms inside a blood vessel, is called a thrombus. Most of the time, clotting is a normal, healthy process that stops bleeding in a damaged area. Clots usually dissolve when the injured tissue has healed.

If abnormal clotting occurs, it can prevent oxygen and nutrients from being delivered to healthy tissue and cause that tissue to die. If a blood clot breaks loose and travels to the heart or lung, this can also cause serious complications.

What are the symptoms of blood clots?

Symptoms of blood clots vary depending upon where the clot is located.

  • Blood clots in the brain may cause visual disturbances, weakness, seizures, or speech impairment.
  • Blood clots in the arm or leg may cause sudden pain, swelling, or tenderness.
  • A blood clot in the lung may cause sharp chest pain, rapid pulse, bloody cough, shortness of breath, sweating, or fever.
  • A blood clot in the abdomen may cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea.

Sometimes a blood clot forms in a central venous catheter, often called a central line, where medication is delivered for a patient with cancer or another serious condition. Symptoms of a central venous catheter clot include pain or swelling in the neck, face, chest, or arm. Like all blood clots, this should be addressed immediately.

How are blood clots diagnosed?

If a doctor suspects a clot, ultrasound imaging will usually locate it. A CT scan or MRI may also be necessary.

How are blood clots treated?

Common treatment for blood clots includes a number of medications like: anticoagulants which thin the blood or thrombolytic agents commonly known as "clot busting" drugs which help the clot dissolve. In rare situations, surgery may be used to remove a clot. A healthy lifestyle is strongly encouraged as a way to prevent blood clots and other complications.

What outcomes are available for blood clots treated at Children's?

Some children with blood clotting problems need treatment for a short period, while others may need lifelong attention. This depends on the reason for the clot.

If your child has a blood clot and/or is diagnosed with a hereditary thrombophilia, he or she will need to stick to a treatment plan to help control any symptoms or complications.

About treatment for blood clots at Children's

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota offer a full range of services to diagnose and treat clots and clotting disorders. Our goal is to give each child a personalized treatment and follow-up plan.

Since many blood clotting disorders are an inherited trait, parents may find out a child is at risk after another relative is diagnosed with a blood clotting problem. Children's offers the testing, genetic counseling, and lifestyle advice your family needs to keep this disorder under control. Through medical and lifestyle intervention, most children with blood clotting disorders can expect to lead a normal life.

Contact us

If you are a family member looking for a Children's hematologist or oncologist or wanting to schedule an appointment, please call our clinic at Children's – Minneapolis at (612) 813-5940.

If you are a health professional looking for consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free) and ask for the on-call hematologist/oncologist.