Deep vein blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), typically form in the lower legs, thighs, and pelvis, but they can also occur in your arms, lungs, brain, kidneys, heart, and stomach. Blood clots in the stomach are referred to as abdominal blood clots.
Read on to learn more about blood clots in the stomach.
Symptoms of blood clots vary from person to person. You won’t always have symptoms with a blood clot. They are unique to the part of the body that is affected by the clot. Symptoms also depend upon how quickly the clot has formed and its size.
Typical symptoms of an abdominal blood clot can include:
- severe abdominal pain
- on/off abdominal pain
- bloody stools
- abdominal fluid accumulation, known as ascites
It’s possible that abdominal blood clots may be the first sign of undiagnosed cancer. In a nationwide study in Denmark, researchers found people with a blood clot in an abdominal vein (venous thrombosis) were more likely to receive a cancer diagnosis within three months of the blood clot diagnosis compared to those in the general population. The most common cancers were liver, pancreatic, and blood cell cancer.
Cancer, in general, increases the formation of blood clots. Damage to veins, along with sluggish blood flow, is believed to also increase the chance of abnormal blood clots in cancer.
More research is needed to understand the further connections between abdominal blood clots and cancer.
It’s normal for blood to clot in response to a cut or injury. It’s the body’s way of preventing you from bleeding to death. But sometimes you can develop a blood clot without an injury. These types of blood clots are dangerous because they interfere with an organ’s blood flow. Blood clots can form in any part of the body, including the abdomen.
Some factors may increase your risk for developing blood clots. These include:
- immobility, such as from taking a long plane ride or having prolonged bed rest
- family history of blood clots
- polycythemia vera (an abnormally high number of red blood cells)
- hormones, including estrogen and progesterone found in birth control pills and hormone therapy used to ease symptoms of menopause
- appendicitis, and other abdominal infections, which may rarely lead to abdominal blood clots in veins as a result of the bacteria and inflammation
- abdominal trauma or injury
- inflammatory bowel disease
Seek immediate medical help if you have symptoms of an abdominal blood clot or are at increased risk for this condition.
If your doctor suspects you have a blood clot in your abdomen based on your symptoms, physical exam, and medical history, they will likely order a CT scan of your abdomen and pelvic region to help visualize your intestinal tract and organs. They may also recommend an ultrasound and MRI to visualize blood flow through your veins.
Blood clots are usually treated with anticoagulants. Anticoagulants are medications that thin the blood and prevent the clot from growing larger, recurring, or developing more clots. These drugs don’t dissolve the clot.
Typical blood thinners used include:
- heparin, which is given intravenously through a needle in your arm
- warfarin, taken in pill form
- enoxaparin (Lovenox), an injectable form of heparin that can be given under the skin
Eventually, the clot is reabsorbed by the body, although in a few number of cases it never completely disappears.
Surgery or applying clot-busting medications directly to the clot may be needed in cases of large, potentially organ-damaging or life-threatening blood clots. Treating the cause of the blood clot is required as well.
Abdominal blood clots are rare. But blood clots, including clots in your abdominal region, are serious, especially if the clot breaks away and lodges in the lungs, causing what’s known as a pulmonary embolism.
To reduce your risk of forming abnormal blood clots, control the factors that you can:
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Quit smoking.
- Talk to your doctor about all your options for birth control.
- Walk around every hour or so during the day, especially on plane rides or long car trips.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
If you have a history of blood clots or have several risk factors, talk to your doctor about the treatment that’s best for you. This often involves taking blood thinners daily.
With treatment, most people recover from blood clots with no or limited long-term effects or complications. Recovery time depends of cause, location, and organs affected by the clot. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions during this time to improve your outcome and decrease your risk of complications.