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Blood Clot Complications

Blood clot complications can be very serious.

Chest pains is a common complication of blood clots. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Chest pains is a common complication of blood clots.

Blood Clot Complications

Although blood clots are the body's way to stop bleeding, a blood clot complications occur when a clot travels to vital organs through veins and arteries and restricts necessary blood flow. Minor complications include discomfort and tenderness in the area of the clot. Major complications can occur when blood clots travel to the lungs, brain, heart or kidneys. Any complication or symptom from blood clots should result in the patient seeking medical treatment as quickly as possible.

Vein Thrombosis

Superficial vein thrombosis (SVT) is a condition that refers to a blood clot occurring in a surface vein of the leg, arm or any other part of the body where the vein affected is located in the superficial areas of tissues.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that is most commonly found in the thigh or leg. Complications from DVT include deceased blood flow and damage to vein walls. According to Dr. Anne Bass, of the Hospital for Special Surgery, DVTs cause swelling and leg pain. If DVTs are not treated promptly, veins, organs and vessels can be damaged as well.

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a very severe complication of blood clot development. PE occurs when there is a blockage of the pulmonary artery or the obstruction of one of its branches. This is usually the result of a clot that begins in a vein and travels to the lungs, preventing proper blood flow. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one-third of patients with PE are undiagnosed or untreated, and do not survive. Patients who have already suffered a pulmonary embolism in the past are at a greater risk of developing another. Once there is an occurrence of pulmonary embolism, other serious conditions may occur, such as pulmonary hypertension and heart damage.


When blood clots travel to the brain, they can cause strokes. Blood clots stop essential blood flow to the brain and the brain tissue does not receive the necessary nutrients and oxygen that it needs to function. Strokes caused by blood clots can result in memory loss, paralysis, numbness and pain, along with trouble walking and talking. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute states that lack of blood flow for more than a few minutes causes cells to die, which impairs the function of that organ. This may result in paralysis, long-term disability or even death.

Heart Attack

Blood clots that travel to a coronary artery can cause a heart attack, blocking blood flow and causing possible damage to the heart muscle. Once a blood clot has traveled to the heart, complications such as leaking heart valves rupture a weakened area of the heart muscle and abnormal heart rhythms can be potentially fatal.

Kidney Failure

The kidneys perform a vital function by cleaning out waste and fluids from the body. Blood clots that travel to the kidneys stop or restrict blood flow, which can cause kidney failure and the inability to rid the body of waste. Kidney problems can lead to high blood pressure.

Pregnancy-Related Problems

Pregnancy increases the risk of blood clots that advance to deep vein thrombosis. If a pregnant woman has had a history of DVT during pregnancy, there is a greater chance of developing a DVT with each successive pregnancy. This risk continues until approximately eight weeks post delivery when the woman's hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy state. Blood clots in pregnant women can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and other pregnancy-related problems.

Other Complications

Chronic venous insufficiency describes several different types of symptoms that occur in the legs. This condition may result when a blood clot has formed in the vein that impedes normal blood flow. Symptoms include:

• Skin discoloration
• Varicose veins
• Ulceration
• Tenderness that results when the blood is not pumped back to the heart properly

Varicose veins are surface veins that are dilated and visible from the surface as a result of blood clots. They typically have weakened walls that lead to areas of bulging. Although not a life-threatening condition, these veins may be a precursor to the development of more dangerous blood clots and could lead to very serious consequences if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

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