Cheney's Clot Not Life Threatening

ByABC News
October 15, 2008, 11:06 AM

March 5, 2007 — -- The deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in Vice President Dick Cheney's left leg should not pose a major risk to his health, doctors said Monday.

DVT, or deep venous thrombosis, is a condition where there is a blood clot in a deep vein. It normally affects the veins in the lower leg and the thigh.

According to a statement issued by the White House, Cheney visited his doctor's office at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates on Monday afternoon after experiencing "mild calf discomfort."

The statement says that an ultrasound revealed the DVT -- a blood clot which had formed in his left lower leg -- and that his doctors will treat him with blood thinning medication for several months.

Cheney was not hospitalized, and, according to White House reports, he has returned to the White House to resume his schedule.

The clots formed in an episode of DVT can be dangerous in some cases, as they may interfere with circulation or break off and travel through the blood stream. If the clot breaks off, it can lodge in the brain, lungs, heart, or another organ of the body, causing severe damage.

Risk factors for DVT include sitting for long periods of time, such as on a long plane trip. Cheney recently spent long hours on planes, having just returned from a series of international visits.

ABC News medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson said on World News that the episode should not pose a serious threat to Cheney's health.

"They had to be pretty sure that it was not a problem to let him go back to work," Johnson said.

He added that if Cheney's calf pain indicated a clot that was below the knee, the risks are generally much better than if the clot had formed in a vein in the thigh, as clots migrating to vital organs from this point would pose more of a threat.

However, considering Cheney's medical history, it is unlikely that doctors will be taking any chances.

"I imagine they will be aggressive since he has a heart history," said Dr. James McKinsey, site chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center. "I assume he has a weakened heart, and may not withstand the strain of a blood clot that travels to the lung, if one did."