Diagnosing a Blood Clot

Blood clotting is a normal and healthy response from the body in certain circumstances. For example, after a cut your blood will attempt to clot itself in order to stop the bleeding. However, clots caused by other reasons can prove to be life-threatening if left untreated, especially those near the lungs or heart. Here’s a look at just how blood clots are diagnosed—including the tests used and who is qualified to make the diagnosis.

Reasons to Test for Blood Clots

Most doctors will test their patients for excessive blood clotting if they’re displaying symptoms associated with it. However, these symptoms will vary depending on the primary location of clots. For example, a blood clot in the legs will present conditions like pain, redness, and swelling in areas below the knee. If a blood clot is near the brain, the symptoms will normally include headaches, dizziness, or in extreme cases, paralysis.

Ways to Diagnose Blood Clots

Since many of the symptoms associated with blood clots can be caused by other conditions as well, it’s nearly impossible to diagnose them without specialized tests. One of the first and most common ways doctors use is ultrasound imaging. By running an ultrasound wand over veins suspected of housing a clot, your doctor can immediately see if this diagnosis is correct.

However, sometimes using an ultrasound may not be an option—as in cases where a patient’s weight is too high to provide an accurate reading. In instances like this, doctors must turn to alternative tests. One of these is a blood screening that looks for the presence of D-Dimer—a byproduct of blood clots. If a patient’s D-Dimer levels are particularly high, this could be an indication of clotting. This is not a definitive test though, since high levels can be attributed to other things as well.

Sometimes a CT scan will be necessary in diagnosing blood clots. CT machines take X-rays of a patient’s body from multiple angles to provide doctors with a composite, 3D image. This method is quite precise at detecting any abnormalities in the veins.

Doctors Who Diagnose Blood Clots

Typically, a general physician will make a request for blood clot testing. Depending on the type of diagnosis method used, he or she may be able to perform the tests alone. Some of the more specialized tests (such as the CT scan) will need to be performed at a hospital or similar facility with the appropriate equipment and blood specialists, which are known as hematologists.