Thrombosis | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is thrombosis diagnosed?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. If thrombosis is suspected, imaging is done to confirm the diagnosis and to define where the blood clot starts and ends. Thrombosis is sometimes found accidentally but mostly because patients develop signs and symptoms of a blood clot. 

If your child is suspected of having a thrombosis, diagnostic tests may include:

  • a physical examination to evaluate symptoms of a blood clot
  • ultrasound, an imaging technique that uses high frequency sound waves and their echoes to make images of the inside of your child's body
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an imaging exam that uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce two- and three-dimensional images of your child's body's organs, tissues, and bones
  • computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan, a non-invasive procedure that uses X-ray equipment and computers to create detailed, cross-sectional images of your child's body
  • analysis of blood samples to evaluate whether your child’s blood is clotting normally and identify any abnormalities in the levels of certain proteins
  • genetic tests may be performed to check for hereditary disorders (inherited thrombophilia)

There may be other diagnostic tests your doctor will discuss with you depending on your child's individual situation. After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best possible treatment options.

What are the treatment options thrombosis?

Your child’s treatment team will determine a specific care plan. In most cases, thrombosis is treated with anticoagulation medications (blood thinners). These medications prevent the clot from growing and decrease the risk of its breaking apart and causing further complications. Your child may need to continue taking these medications for several months after initial treatment.

Examples of anticoagulation medication your child’s physician may prescribe include:

  • injections under the skin (also called subcutaneous injections) of a low molecular weight heparin such as enoxaparin (Lovenox) or dalteparin (Fragmin)
  • oral agents such as warfarin (Coumadin)
  • intravenous heparin
  • antiplatelet agents such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), or prasugrel (Effient)

Other treatments may include wearing compression stockings, remaining active, and applying warm packs to improve blood flow and pain caused by the clot.

Of course, your child's team of doctors will help determine the best approach for your child's unique situation, based on a number of factors, including:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • the severity of the disease
  • your child's tolerance for certain medications, procedures, or therapies
  • how your child's doctors expect the disease to progress
  • your opinion and preferences

What is the long-term outlook for children with thrombosis?

Some deep vein thromboses may resolve without treatment. Treatment is given to help get rid of the blood clot and to minimize complications of thrombosis. If the blood clot remains, other veins will enlarge to bypass the blockage. Sometimes these veins are visible, like varicose veins. After a blood clot some people develop long-term pain and swelling in the leg called post-thrombotic syndrome, which is caused by reduced blood flow and damage to the affected vein. Some patients also have changes in skin color, which may not develop for a year or more afterward.

Blood clots in the thigh are more likely to break off and travel to the lungs than blood clots below the knee or in the arms. A pulmonary embolism can be a life-threatening emergency, requiring immediate medical attention.