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As there are many causes of leg pain, a doctor cannot diagnose deep vein thrombosis (DVT) by symptoms alone. The doctor will ask you some questions and do a blood test (called D-dimer), and will then decide if further tests are required .
Before performing any tests, a doctor will establish the likelihood of a blood clot by asking questions, performing a physical examination, and completing a formalised risk score. If the probability of a DVT is low, a blood test, called a D-dimer test, is performed to rule out the diagnosis. If these tests show the probability of a DVT is high, additional tests, like an ultrasound will be performed to confirm the diagnosis .
Figure: compression ultrasonography involves pressing the ultrasound probe to the vein to check if it is open or obstructed by a thrombus.
Further imaging tests include taking X-rays of the veins with the use of contrast agents, as well as more sophisticated imaging such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) .
A doctor will make a diagnosis of PE using a similar approach to diagnosing a DVT. Step 1 involves asking questions, assessing clinical signs and then completing a clinical decision rule. Step 2 is performing a D-dimer test, and Step 3 involves imaging the lungs to see if a clot can be seen .
The following imaging tests are used to diagnose PE :
VTEMatters offers general information only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice.
1. Ho WK. Deep vein thrombosis. Australian Family Physician 2010; 39:468-74.
2. Skinner S. Pulmonary embolism: assessment and imaging. Australian Family Physician 2013; 42:629-32.
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