How to Test for Blood Clots

Blood clots
Blood clots (Image: Photo courtesy of

Blood clots typically begin in the legs, but can also form in other areas of the body such as the arms and heart. If these clots move from their original position, they can move through the body an into the lungs. Though many cases of blood clots are not fatal, if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, they can have serious health repercussions.

Things You'll Need

  • Venography
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • Blood test
  • Ulmonary angiogram.

Get a Venography. This test is a bit complex and invasive, but can be used to detect clots and blockages caused by clots at any point in the arms and legs. During the test, a catheter is inserted into a vein either in the foot or ankle, and a dye is then injected, making the blood vessel more visible before the x-ray is taken.

Receive an ultrasound. This is a non-invasive test that is accurate for diagnosing blood clots behind the knee or in the thigh, but not in areas below the knee. During the test, a device called a transducer is used to emit high frequency sound waves directly over the vein suspected of containing the clot. The waves are then reflected back to the device and translated into a moving image on the screen.

Undergo an MRI. Due to the expense of this test, it is generally reserved for patients with special circumstances, such as pregnant women, or those whose kidneys may not be able to handle the dye used in other tests. During an MRI, powerful magnetic fields and radio waves are used to produce images of specific areas of the body, helping detect blood clots in those areas.

Receive a blood test. They are used for patients who have experienced more than one problem with blood clots or who have a family history of them. These tests help locate any genetic abnormalities in the blood which may determine a clotting problem requiring lifelong therapy with blood thinning medications.

Undergo a pulmonary angiogram. This test is typically saved as a last resort and is used when other tests have failed to detect blood clots. This is due to the high risks associated with the procedure. It is a test which has proven accurate for detecting blood clots in the lungs, and is performed by inserting a catheter into a large vein, generally in the groin, which is then threaded into pulmonary arteries and through the heart. A dye is then injected into the catheter, and X-rays taken as the dye runs through the arteries, into the lungs.

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