Children can get blood clots called deep vein thromboses. These are emergencies and need prompt treatment. How are they diagnosed?
There are certain circumstances under which a DVT may develop in a child.
The reason these blood clots are so dangerous is that a piece of the clot, even if in the lower leg, could break off and travel via the circulatory system and lodge in an artery of the lung – cutting off the child’s air supply.
At this point the situation is called a pulmonary embolism.
“DVT’s are extremely rare in children,” says Lisa Lewis, MD, a board certified pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of “Feed the Baby Hummus, Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World.”
DVT Risk Factors in Children
Dr. Lewis explains, “They may be seen in adolescents who are obese and not very active. Also, children who are hospitalized and immobile for longer periods of time are at risk.”
DVT Prevention and Diagnosis in Kids
“However, because they are a known complication of immobility, most hospitals will take measures to prevent them,” says Dr. Lewis.
“DVT’s also may be seen in individuals with clotting disorders,” and these disorders can be detected with lab work.
“Typically DVT’s in children (and adults) will present with leg pain.” Other symptoms may be redness or swelling of the leg, and it may also feel extra warm.
“The best way to diagnose a DVT is via an ultrasound,” continues Dr. Lewis. “If a DVT is found, likely blood tests will be performed to rule out a clotting disorder.”
If a doctor suspects that a child has a pulmonary embolism, this can be confirmed with a specialized CT scan.
When should parents worry that their child might have a deep vein thrombosis?
Actually, it wouldn’t be practical to worry about this as long as your child is active, healthy and not obese.
Certainly, DVT is something you’ll want to be aware of if your child (especially if obese) is bedridden due to an injury or illness, or just had major surgery.
But as Dr. Lewis mentioned, most hospitals will implement prevention tactics following surgery.
So unless your child has been diagnosed with a clotting disorder, your bigger concerns as a parent should be things like sunscreen, stranger danger awareness, self-defense lessons, a healthy diet, regular dental checkups, savviness when it comes to smartphone use and recognizing suspicious communications, and training in how to say NO! to substance use.
Encouraging an active lifestyle that includes fitness workouts, weight control and anti-smoking will help prevent a DVT from developing once your child is an adult.
Having 25+ years’ experience, Dr. Lewis completed her pediatrics residency at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, Scott and White Memorial Hospital. For two years afterward she was assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Texas A&M University Health Science Center.
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.