Physical Findings in Patients with DVT

By William Aird

After taking vitals (concern for PE) and observing whether the patient is in any obvious pain. Then examine the patient in the horizontal position with knees slightly flexed.

  • Inspect for swelling, discoloration (red, white, cyanotic) & collateral superficial veins (measure for swelling with a measuring tape if appropriate).
  • Palpate for temperature difference, leg tenderness and pitting edema.

The clinical signs for DVT are highly variable and non-specific.

Some physical findings are used in modern day clinical scores (e.g., Wells score):

  • Swelling
  • Pitting edema
  • Presence of collateral veins

It is important to rule out phlegmasia alba dolens and cerulea alba dolens. These are rare complications that can lead to venous gangrene.