It’s very true that an ultrasound can actually miss a DVT, but other tests are more definitive.

Staci Stringer’s DVT was missed by an ultrasound.

In September 2010, she experienced a deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

When the DVT developed, Stringer was on birth control, but she also has lupus anticoagulant syndrome and rheumatoid/psoriatic arthritis.

 Ultrasound Misses DVT 

“It started as a pain in my leg, and after a week I went to the ER and had an ultrasound; they said it was nothing,” says Stringer on her site.

“The following Monday I was admitted to the ER with a PE,” which had caused chest pain.

“After a week or so the PE cut off blood flow to a portion of my lung which caused a pulmonary infarction.”

Another way of saying this is a “heart attack in the lung,” in that oxygen was cut off by the blood clots to the lung tissue, permanently damaging it.

Symptom Detail

“I started to feel the symptoms of a DVT in my right calf,” says Stringer’s account. “It was swollen, extremely painful, hard to walk. I ignored the symptoms because I figured it was just arthritis pain.”

She continues: “I spoke with my general practitioner after a week and she told me to go to the ER for an ultrasound.”

Ultrasound is a standard diagnostic tool for DVTs.

“The technician thought he saw something but sent me home. I started to get a fever; my calf became so stiff I couldn’t walk.

“I walked up two flights of stairs to my apartment and was so out of breath I was grasping for air for 10 minutes.

“Next day I walked up the stairs to my office and I was so out of breath I fainted. I was admitted to the ER. After the CT scan they found a pulmonary embolism.”

 How does an ultrasound miss a DVT? 

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To detect a DVT, the ultrasound involves compression of the blood vessel wall.

A probe is used and if it slides off the vessel wall, a false-negative finding can result.

If you believe an ultrasound has missed a DVT, request a color flow venous duplex scan.

This should be of the vessels close to your pelvis as well as extending down to the foot. A CAT scan or MRI can also be done.

“The doctors weren’t sure if it was my birth control, my arthritis flare that caused the DVT,” says Stringer, “but I later found out I have lupus anticoagulant syndrome. I’m on warfarin for life.”

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/TANAPAT LEK.JIW