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Blood Clot Diagnosis

Seek a blood clot diagnosis when risk factors are high for blood clots.

A doppler ultrasound can help diagnose blood clots. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
A doppler ultrasound can help diagnose blood clots.

Blood Clot Diagnosis

Blood clot diagnosis is very important to a patient's health, especially if the blood clot is causing pain, inflammation, or has the potential to break loose and affect the heart or lungs. When blood clots are caught in veins, they cause irritation (inflammation) to occur, which is known as thrombophlebitis. According to Mayo Clinic, life threatening complications may occur if blood clots become loose and travel within the bloodstream to form a blockage in areas such as the lungs, brain or heart.

When a blood clot travels within the body, it can be difficult to diagnose, especially in people who have underlying heart, brain or lung disease. Doctors often perform tests to determine whether a blood clot may be the underlying cause of symptoms. The type of test performed will depend on the patient's symptoms and family history. Most tests use x-rays or ultrasound technology to determine the location of a blood clot, while blood tests look for inherited traits that may cause current or future blood clots.

Doppler Ultrasonography

Doppler ultrasound can help to diagnose the presence of venous blood clots in the arms and legs. Although it is a good indicator for detecting clots, it is not able to detect whether the clot found is old or has just developed. This test uses waves based on sound to detect and create pictures of the blood as it flows through the veins and arteries in the affected arm or leg. According to the Western Journal of Medicine, Doppler ultrasonography has a sensitivity of 95 percent for detecting the presence of a blood clot in deep venous thrombosis (DVT).

Duplex Ultrasound

This test uses an ultrasound that is very similar to the one used for the Doppler test, but changes the sound waves into a picture so the doctor can view the patient's veins. This test is used to diagnose numerous conditions of the veins including those associated with blood clots.


Venography is an x-ray of veins. In performing this test, a catheter is inserted into a vein in the arm or leg, and a radiopaque dye is injected through a small needle. Dye is used to make the veins visible on an x-ray. This allows examiners to obtain specific information regarding the venous system .

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Magnetic Resonance Venography (MRV)

According to physicians from the Cleveland Clinic, MRIs visualize structures inside the body, while MRVs show blood vessels in the body. Radio waves are used in MRIs and MRVs to indicate the presence of blood clots. MRIs are used more often due to the cost of MRVs and their lack of availability.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

This is a type of x-ray that can provide excellent images of structures inside the body. A computed tomogrpahy (CT) scan may be used to diagnose blood clots in the abdomen or pelvis, as well as in the lungs to diagnose pulmonary embolisms, which are blood clots that have lodged in the lungs.

Blood Tests

If the patient has a family history of developing blood clots, Mayo Clinic suggests having genetic blood tests performed to detect any inherited defects in clotting. The results of the test may allow for prescription anti-clotting medications (anticoagulants) to help prevent future blood clots.

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