Greater Saphenous Vein Thrombosis: Causes, Treatment, and Blood Clot Prevention

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Image Greater Saphenous Vein Thrombosis

Great saphenous vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot that blocks the great saphenous vein (GSV), also known as the long saphenous vein. This large vein delivers blood from the ankle, lower leg, and thigh to the femoral vein. When a blood clot blocks the great saphenous vein, it can lead to a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT can cause swelling, pain, redness, and warmth in the affected leg. In severe cases, the clot can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism (PE).

According to the American Red Cross, an average-sized adult has approximately 1.2 – 1.5 gallons of blood coursing through their body, the equivalent of 10 percent of a person’s body weight. Among the intricate network of blood vessels, the great saphenous vein plays a crucial role in returning blood from the legs to the heart. However, when this vein becomes obstructed by a clot, it results in great saphenous vein thrombosis.

The dangers of great saphenous vein thrombosis

In a study published by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), researchers examined how often blood clots in the greater saphenous vein cause more severe problems like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). They looked at the medical records of 40 patients with these kinds of blood clots to see what happened to them over time.

They found that out of these 40 patients, three patients (about 7.5 percent) had their blood clots move to deeper veins or their lungs within a year. This is concerning because it means greater saphenous vein blood clots can lead to more severe health issues.

What are the risk factors of greater saphenous vein thrombosis?

Greater saphenous vein thrombosis (GSVT) can be caused by various factors that generally fall into three main categories: reduced blood flow, increased clotting, and vein damage. Let’s look at each of these contributing factors:

Reduced Blood Flow
Reduced blood flow, also known as stasis, is a significant factor in the development of GSVT. This condition often occurs due to prolonged periods of inactivity, which can slow down blood circulation in the veins. For instance, long flights or bed rest can significantly increase the risk of thrombosis due to decreased movement.

Increased Clotting
Changes in the blood's clotting mechanism can also lead to GSVT. This can be triggered by various conditions, including changes in the immune system due to illness. Certain medical conditions, such as cancer or autoimmune disorders, can enhance the blood's tendency to clot.

Vein Damage
Physical damage to the vein, whether through surgical procedures, injury, or inflammation, can also contribute to clot formation. This type of damage can be a direct injury to the vein or could be due to medical interventions that affect the vein's integrity1.

Additional Risk Factors
According to Healthline, several other several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing GSVT, including include:

  • Age: Per Mayo Clinic, individuals older than age 60 are at increased risk; however, DVT can occur at any age.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use can affect blood flow and clotting mechanisms.
  • Obesity: Excess weight increases pressure on the veins and can lead to reduced blood flow.
  • Pregnancy: This condition increases the pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs.
  • Oral contraceptives and hormone therapy: These can affect the blood's ability to clot.
  • Previous venous thrombosis: A history of blood clots increases the risk of future clots.

Understanding these causes and risk factors is crucial for preventing and effectively managing greater saphenous vein thrombosis.

Are you concerned about a blood clot? Center for Vein Restoration can help!

Early diagnosis and treatment of GSVT can help prevent potential complications, such as blockage due to the blood clot or the development of a pulmonary embolism.

Be aware of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and blood clot risk factors. If you have any risk factors, including recent surgery, long periods of sitting, or a family history, watch for signs of DVT, such as leg swelling, pain, or redness.

The board-certified vein physicians at Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) are venous health experts. We offer a same-day DVT rule-out service or next-day diagnosis and treatment plan options. Call our hotline at 877-SCAN-DVT for more information.

What are the signs and symptoms of greater saphenous vein thrombosis?

The signs and symptoms of GSVT can vary in severity and presentation; in some cases, the condition may be asymptomatic. Additionally, these symptoms do not necessarily indicate GSVT, as they can also be associated with other conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or superficial thrombophlebitis.

While the signs and symptoms of GSVT can vary, recognizing them is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent potential complications. These include:

Pain and Tenderness
One of the most common and prominent symptoms of GSVT is pain and tenderness along the course of the greater saphenous vein, extending from the foot to the upper thigh. The pain can range from a dull ache to severe discomfort, which may worsen with movement or prolonged standing. The tenderness is often localized to the area where the clot has formed, and the vein may feel hard and cord-like to the touch.

Swelling (edema) is another common sign of GSVT. This swelling typically occurs in the affected leg, particularly around the clot. It can range from mild to severe and may sometimes extend to the foot or ankle.

Redness and Warmth
The area around the clotted vein often appears red and inflamed. This redness, or erythema, can vary in intensity and may be accompanied by warmth or a burning sensation along the affected vein.

Obvious Vein That Feels Like a Chord Under the Skin
In many cases of GSVT, a palpable cord or lump can be felt under the skin, following the path of the greater saphenous vein. This cord-like structure is the clotted vein itself, which may be tender to the touch.

Sometimes, the skin overlying the affected vein may appear discolored, ranging from a bluish or purplish hue to a darker, reddish-brown color. This discoloration is often a result of the inflammation and stagnant blood flow caused by the clot.

If you experience any of these symptoms, particularly if they are accompanied by risk factors for venous thrombosis (such as prolonged immobility, recent surgery, or a history of clotting disorders), it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention.

Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) offers a same-day deep vein thrombosis (DVT) rule-out service or next-day diagnosis and treatment plan options. Our hotline number is 877-SCAN-DVT.

How do you treat greater saphenous vein thrombosis?

The way vein doctors treat greater saphenous vein thrombosis is changing because research shows that these clots can come back and lead to deep vein thrombosis. Physicians used to focus on easing symptoms, but now they’ve realized that leaving SVT untreated could cause serious future problems. Treatment focuses on spotting blood clots early, customizing treatment, and preventing future blood clots.

According to a study reported by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), treatment includes:

  1. Anticoagulation Therapy: The mainstay treatment for greater saphenous vein thrombosis (GSVT), especially for extensive cases to prevent thrombus extension, recurrence, and potential venous thromboembolism like deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, per the NIH. The duration of anticoagulation, such as warfarin and heparin, can vary from 4-6 weeks.
  2. Surgical Intervention: SVT recurrence rates range from 15 to 20 percent. Surgical interventions like ligation or ambulatory phlebectomy of the great saphenous vein may offer benefits in terms of symptom relief, prevention of recurrence, and shorter recovery times compared to anticoagulation alone.
  3. Treatment of Venous Insufficiency: Addressing underlying venous insufficiency, a common predisposing factor for GSVT, can reduce the likelihood of clot formation. Center for Vein Restoration offers various minimally invasive procedures to treat venous insufficiency, such as:

The importance of vein care to prevent blood clot risk

Despite the body's remarkable ability to distribute nutrients and oxygen, such conditions underscore the critical importance of maintaining vascular health.

By offering a comprehensive approach to venous health, Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) can play a crucial role in preventing greater saphenous vein thrombosis and promoting overall vascular wellness. CVR offers comprehensive treatment options for venous insufficiency, a common risk factor for GSVT, which can reduce the likelihood of blood clot formation.

CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

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