Iliac Vein Stenting

What is an iliac vein compression?

Iliac vein compression, also known as May Thurner syndrome, occurs when the left vein is compressed externally by the right iliac artery. This increases the risk of getting deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the leg. It may also cause swelling of the affected lower limb, which may lead to venous fatigue – a heavy, uncomfortable feeling in the limb.

Deep vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot which may block blood flow in the leg. DVT’s may break off and form a life-threatening blood clot in the lungs. Blood vessels are responsible for carrying blood to every part of the body. Arteries are responsible for moving blood from the heart, and the veins bring blood back to the heart.

What are the symptoms of iliac vein compression?

Iliac vein compression may not cause any symptoms. In its later stages, however, the patient may experience symptoms such as pain or swelling of the leg. If one is diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, it may cause symptoms such as:

  • Skin colour changes, which may look more red or purple than usual
  • Heaviness, tenderness or throbbing
  • Pain that may feel like cramps or muscle spasm
  • Swelling
  • Veins that may look larger than usual
  • Skin that feels warm

If the deep vein thrombosis breaks off and forms a blood clot in the lungs, it may cause symptoms such as:

  • Chest pains which may be worse when the patient breathes in
  • Coughing up blood
  • Heart palpitations
  • Passing out
  • Shortness of breath or other breathing complications

What does iliac vein stenting involve?

The main goal for iliac vein stenting is to relieve symptoms and if one already has blood clots, to reduce their recurrence. With this procedure, a sheath (cannula or drip) will be inserted in the groin or behind the knee, which will give the surgeon access to the blocked vein. He will insert a catheter through the sheath and guide it through the veins to the location of the blockage.

A small wire and a balloon will be passed through the catheter. The balloon will be inflated, which will enlarge the vein and allow blood to flow through. Intra Vascular Ultrasound (doing the ultrasound from within the vein) and other specialized imaging procedures will help the surgeon with the precise placement of the stent in the vein. After the stent is placed in position, and a good result confirmed with imaging, the catheter and sheath will be removed. After the procedure, the patient will receive compression stockings and a blood thinner of choice. It is normal to feel some lower back discomfort for a couple of days after the procedure, which is an indication of successful treatment.

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"Often healing takes place in ourselves as we pray for the healing of others."
~ Michael E. DeBakey