Blood clots are dangerous and can quickly become life-threatening. A recent study suggests a new compound used in combination with a diagnostic scan increases the ability of physicians to detect harmful blood clots.
For a variety of reasons, blood clots can form in the deep veins in the leg, pelvis, or arms. When a blood clot in a deep vein (DVT) breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). A pulmonary embolism can cause serious injury, disability, or death if not diagnosed or treated quickly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates approximately 900,000 people per year are impacted by Deep Vein Thrombosis, also known as venous thromboembolism (VTE), in the United States. Of those patients, between 60,000 and 100,000 die each year due to the condition. Data around DVTs includes:
- Of people diagnosed with a DVT or PE, between 10 percent and 30 percent will die within one month.
- Because of the damage to veins caused by blood clots, long-term consequences impact about half of those who experience a DVT.
- Symptoms of DVT can include swelling, redness, pain, or other uncomfortable changes in your legs or arms.
There are many risk factors for a PE or DVT. Major surgery can trigger the body to increase the clotting of blood. The first three months after surgery are highest for incidence of a venous thromboembolism. Other causes include family history and genetics, pregnancy, childbirth, or C-section, sedentary lifestyle, increasing age, and a number of medical conditions, among other risk factors.
Given the serious nature of blood clots, diagnosis of a DVT is important. Standard diagnostic measures for blood clots include blood tests, ultrasound, and other imaging including the injection of tracer material in the blood stream combined with the use of an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. In a recent article in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, researchers discuss a new tracer that yields a high rate of detection of venous thromboembolism.
Symptoms of a DVT can vary from patient to patient. Because of this, a physician may mistake the signs of a VTE for another condition and fail to order appropriate testing or treatment. VTE may exist in a vein without symptom until a new blood clot forms.
Regarding the new tracer material, researcher Dr. Dae Moon notes, “Conventional imaging with ultrasonography, CT venography or CT pulmonary angiography is typically unable to distinguish old thromboemboli from new and potentially unstable thromboemboli. The 18F-GP1 tracer used in this study offers the unique ability to detect, characterize and track newly formed thrombi that have a high risk for embolization and further complication.”
Better diagnosis and anatomical information about blood clots reduces overtreatment in patients with low risk, and improves the chances of treatment and recovery without complication in high risk patients. With more clinical trials ahead, study authors hope the new imaging tracer improves diagnostic ability for seeing and treating DVTs before they become deadly.
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