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Blood clot treatment prevention

What is a blood clot?

A blood clot, sometimes called venous thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a cluster of blood cells that that forms in the veins of the body. These clots can form anywhere there is a vein. They most frequently form in the arms and legs, but can also be found in the heart, brain, or lungs. Blood clots can sometimes be serious.

What causes a clot?

Fortunately blood clots in children are uncommon but they do occur more frequently in children and young adults who are in the hospital. Things that increase risk of clots:

  • Central venous catheters—this includes ports, PICC lines, Hickman or Broviac catheters
  • Immobilization—prolonged bed rest, casts, crutches, long plane rides
  • Infections
  • Major surgery or trauma
  • Active cancer
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Some illnesses such as nephrotic syndrome, autoimmune or inflammatory diseases
  • Some medications such as estrogen, birth control pills, steroids, asparaginase or total parenteral nutrition
  • Severe dehydration
  • Family history of venous thrombosis or inherited thrombosis risk factors

When a clot occurs there is often more than one risk factor.

What are the signs of a blood clot?

The most common signs and symptoms include:

In arms or legs

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain particularly with walking
  • Red streak or bulging vein

In the upper chest

  • Prominent veins on the chest
  • Swelling of the neck, face, eyes
  • Headache

In the lungs

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood

How is it diagnosed?

If there is a concern for a blood clot, the following tests may be ordered:

  • Ultrasound
  • Echocardiogram
  • MRI or CT Scan

How is it treated?

Blood clots are treated with medicine to thin the blood. Taking blood thinner medicine may continue for weeks or even months.
If there is significant risk of a blood clot, preventive treatment including mechanical compression, compression stockings or blood thinners may be suggested. Getting out of bed several times a day and walking also prevent blood clots.

Mechanical compression

Mechanical compression is a device that squeezes the legs when a patient is in bed. This keeps blood flowing in the legs back to the heart.

Anti-embolism stockings

Anti-embolism stockings, also called TED stockings, may be used to prevent blood clots. Graduated compression hosiery is different because the stockings are designed specifically for people who are mobile. The hosiery provides more compressive pressure at the lower end of the garment and gradually decreases towards the upper end of the garment up the leg.

What else do I need to know?

Look for signs and symptoms of a blood clot and contact your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns.


This sheet is not specific to your child, but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Last Reviewed 7/2015 © Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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