Have you ever heard anyone say the word DVT in reference to your legs and you wondered what they were talking about? DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis. It refers to a blood clot in your veins. These blood clots usually occur in your calf, thigh, or pelvis.

Your femoral vein runs along the inside of your legs from your groin area downward. Femoral vein thrombosis refers to a blood clot present in those veins. These veins are superficial, or close to the surface of the skin, and are often more prone to blood clots than deeper veins.

Symptoms of femoral vein thrombosis are similar to symptoms of DVT. They include:

  • noticeable swelling of your entire leg
  • tenderness along the veins
  • abnormal swelling that stays swollen when you press it with your finger, also known as pitting edema
  • low-grade fever

Additionally, the calf of your affected leg may swell to a size that is more than 3 centimeters greater than the nonaffected leg.

Femoral vein thrombosis can occur as a result of surgery or complications from illness. It can also occur without a known cause or event.

Risk factors for femoral vein thrombosis include:

  • immobility
  • major medical conditions that require you to be on bed rest for an extended period of time
  • recent surgery or leg trauma
  • an existing, underlying blood clotting disorder
  • cancer diagnosis
  • history of past deep vein thrombosis

Your doctor may be able to recognize signs and symptoms of a femoral vein thrombosis from a physical examination, but they will need to do additional testing to diagnose the condition.

Compression ultrasonography

Compression ultrasonography is the most commonly used technique to diagnose a blood clot. It is a noninvasive test that allows your doctor to see an image of your femoral veins down to your calf veins. It will display an image on the screen in different colors. If you have an obstruction, your doctor can use this image to locate the clot.

Venography

Venography is an invasive imaging diagnostic test used to look for DVTs. It can be painful and expensive. This test is less likely used because of the discomfort and costs. Your doctor may recommend venography if the results from an ultrasonography are inconclusive.

MRI

An MRI is a noninvasive diagnostic test that looks at a high-resolution image of your anatomy. Your doctor may order an MRI if you are unable to do an ultrasound.

Treatment for femoral vein thrombosis is focused primarily on prevention before the blood clot develops. Treatment typically consists of anticoagulation therapy to thin your blood to help prevent clot formations.

Initially, your doctor may prescribe heparin injections or fondaparinux (Arixtra) injections. After a period of time, they will discontinue the heparin and switch you to warfarin (Coumadin). Newer drugs approved in the treatment of DVT and PE include:

  • edoxaban (Savaysa)
  • dabigatran (Pradaxa)
  • rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
  • apixaban (Eliquis)

If you are inactive, your doctor may also recommend elevating your legs with a pillow to avoid compressing your veins.

If you develop a clot, your doctor may also prescribe pain medication to help decrease the discomfort caused by the clot.

If you are unable to take blood thinners, your doctor may place an interior vena cava filter (IVCF) filter into your veins. An IVCF is meant to catch a blood clot if it begins to move through the vein.

If you are scheduled for surgery or if you are inactive, speak to your doctor about blood clot prevention methods. Preventing a blood clot is your best form of treatment.

If you suspect a blood clot, contact your doctor immediately. Early intervention can make you less likely to experience complications.

If you are planning on having surgery, speak with your doctor beforehand about ways to prevent blood clots. You should also speak with your doctor if you have any injury that leaves you immobile. They can recommend safe ways to reduce your risk for blood clots.

The best prevention for femoral vein thrombosis is to remain active and mobile. The more immobile you are, the higher your risk for developing a DVT. Here are some tips:

  • If you are traveling long distances, stand up and move your legs regularly. If you are on a plane, walk up and down the aisle every hour. If you are in a car, take frequent stops so that you can get out of the car and move around.
  • Stay hydrated, especially while traveling. Not only will this help you to remember to move because you will need to take trips to the restroom, but it will also help promote blood flow.
  • Talk to your doctor about elastic stockings, sometimes called TED hose or compression stockings. They may help improve circulation in your legs.
  • If your doctor prescribes blood thinners, take them as directed.

Q:

How is femoral vein thrombosis different from other types of blood clots?

A:

The difference in a femoral vein thrombosis and other types of deep venous thrombosis is the location of the clot and the significance of a clot in this region. It occurs in the femoral vein by definition and although it may be superficial, it’s considered a deep vein. When it occurs in the femoral vein, it is more likely to embolize than a DVT in the calf. Therefore, it is a more serious type of DVT, and more likely to cause DVT and pulmonary embolism.

William Morrison, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.