Is one calf painful and/or swollen?

Continued on next page call your doctor now possible cause Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which a blood clot blocks a vein in the leg, may be the cause. This condition is more likely after long periods of immobility due to illness or long-distance travel. If it is not treated, there is a risk that a piece of the blood clot may break off and be carried in the circulation to lodge in a blood vessel in the lungs, blocking the blood flow.

action If your doctor suspects deep vein thrombosis, you will be referred to hospital at once for tests, such as Doppler ultrasound scanning (p.235), to examine the veins in the leg. In most cases, anticoagulant drugs will be prescribed, initially by injection, and may be needed for several weeks.


||g call an ambulance possible causes You may have a fracture or dislocation or a serious injury to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments of the leg or to the cartilage within the knee joint.

action You will probably need to have an X-ray (p.39) in order to discover the type and extent of the damage. Sometimes an operation is needed to reposition bones. Depending on the nature of the injury, you may need to wear a plaster cast or a firm bandage.

see your doctor within 24 hours possible causes Inflammation of a superficial vein (thrombophlebitis) or a bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissues (cellulitis) may be the cause.

action If you have thrombophlebitis, your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. The condition usually clears up in about 2 weeks. If you have cellulitis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and will probably recommend that initially you rest with the affected leg elevated.

possible cause Damage to muscles, tendons, or ligaments of the leg or to the cartilage within the knee joint may be the cause.

action Carry out self-help measures (see Treating sprains and strains, p.229). Consult your doctor if the pain is severe or if it is no better within 48 hours.

Femoral angiography

Femoral angiography is a contrast X-ray procedure (p.40) used to detect narrowed or blocked arteries in the legs. A catheter is inserted into an artery in the arm and is threaded towards the heart and then to the femoral artery. A dye is injected into the catheter and flows from the femoral artery to other vessels in the legs. Several X-rays of the blood vessels are taken to identify sites of blockage. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and is done under a local anaesthetic.

Entry site of catheter

Tip of catheter

Femoral artery

During the procedure

A catheter is inserted into an artery in an arm and guided to the femoral artery in the leg. A dye that shows up on X-ray images is then injected through the catheter.

Entry site of catheter

Tip of catheter

Femoral artery

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Did the pain come on a few hours after unaccustomed or unusually strenuous exercise?

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