venous thromboembolism

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(VTE) the formation of a blood clot in a vein, which may become detached and lodged elsewhere. It includes deep vein thrombosis (see phlebothrombosis) and pulmonary embolism. VTE has been the leading direct cause of maternal death since the first CEMACH report was published in 1985 (see maternal mortality rate). Pregnancy causes a hypercoagulable state and venous stasis in the lower limbs, which increases the risk of VTE six-fold. Surgery (e.g. Caesarean section) and immobility further increase this risk, as do inherited thrombophilias. There should be a low threshold of investigation (see Doppler ultrasound) and treatment with low-molecular-weight heparin until the diagnosis is confirmed or excluded. See also thromboembolism.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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