A simple ultrasound scan works as well at spotting deep vein blood clots as a costly and time-consuming technique requiring more advanced equipment, Italian researchers said on Wednesday.
The finding gives emergency room doctors and hospitals lacking expensive ultrasound machines an easier way to check for the clots that can kill, said Enrico Bernardi of the Civic Hospital in Italy, who led the study.
"Until this study nobody knew if the two techniques were equally effective and safe," he said in a telephone interview. "Patients are equally safe with either technique."
Vein blood clots, or thromboses, happen when circulation is restricted in a deep vein -- often in a leg. Deep vein thrombosis itself is not fatal but can kill if the clots move through the body to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.
Traditionally, doctors have used two techniques to check for the clots. The first is a short ultrasound scan of two veins -- one in the groin and the other behind the knee -- along with a blood test that can be done in the doctor's office.
The more complicated procedure involves using an advanced ultrasound machine to evaluate the entire vein system in the leg one part at a time, a costly approach that requires specialists to carry out the test.
"It is very difficult for many hospitals to afford such machines," Bernardi said. "We can do the simple technique in a very short time and be confident our patients are managed in a proper way."
Bernardi and colleagues, who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at nearly 2,100 people suspected to have deep vein thrombosis.
They split the people into two groups and found that the different methods identified about the same number of deep vein clots, Bernardi said.
By Jennifer Larson
Writer, radRounds Radiology News and Updates
October 23, 2008
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