Thrombosis or blood clot does not occur often in children. However, a hospitalized child has a much higher chance of developing a blood clot, mainly due to the use of a small soft tube (central venous catheter) that is inserted into a vein to give medicines, nutrients, blood products, or fluids.
The Pediatric Thrombosis Program at Children’s provides comprehensive care to children who have blood clots. Our team includes physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses, school liaisons, social workers, child life specialists and other health care professionals committed to the care of infants, children and young adults affected by blood clots.
Q: What is a blood clot?
A: A blood clot forms when blood becomes solid rather than liquid. Blood clots happen mostly in veins or blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart from the rest of your body, but can happen in arteries too. Some common places for blood clots to form are arms, legs and lungs.
Q: What are symptoms of a blood clot?
A: Symptoms are different for each person and depend on where the blood clot is. If a blood clot is in your arm or legs (known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT), you may have pain at the site along with redness and/or swelling of affected area. If a blood clot forms in your lungs (known as pulmonary embolism or PE), you may have sudden chest pain that is worse when you take a deep breath. You may also feel short of breath and may cough up blood.
Q: What are causes of blood clots?
A: Anyone can get a blood clot. Many things can make you more likely to have a clot. The most common risk factor in children is the use of a central venous catheter. Some other common risk factors include:
- Increased estrogen (steroid hormones in the body)
- Birth control (pills, patches, rings)
- Estrogen hormone therapy
- Medical conditions
- Inflammatory conditions such as lupus, sickle cell disease and inflammatory bowel disease
- A family history of blood clots
- Sitting too long (long car or plane rides)
- Major surgery (hip, abdomen, knee)
- Broken bone
Q: How are blood clots diagnosed?
A: When a blood clot is suspected, your doctor will start with a medical history and physical exam. Then imaging studies may be done to confirm there is a blood clot. The most commonly used imaging to diagnose DVT is a Doppler ultrasound. CT scan is the test of choice to diagnose a PE.
Q: How are blood clots treated?
A: The main treatment for blood clots is anticoagulant medication or blood thinners. Blood thinners may be given as a pill by mouth, a shot into the skin or through a shot into a vein. Your doctor will decide how long you need to be treated depending on why you developed a clot in the first place.
The goals of these medicines are:
- To keep the clot from getting bigger
- To stop the clot from breaking and going to other parts of your body (lungs/brain).
- To stop a new clot from forming
- To decrease long term effects of having a clot
For more information about our Pediatric Thrombosis Program, services we offer and conditions we treat, visit www.childrensal.org/thrombosis