May-Thurner Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment

If your left leg is swollen and painful, especially if your symptoms came on suddenly, you may have signs of May-Thurner syndrome (MTS). MTS can slowly develop for years without causing symptoms.

When symptoms appear, it’s essential to schedule an exam at Central Coast Vein and Vascular to diagnose the problem and prevent dangerous complications. Here’s what you need to know about MTS.

Cause of May-Thurner syndrome

MTS, also known as iliac vein compression syndrome or Cockett's syndrome, affects two blood vessels that go to your legs  -- your right iliac artery, which carries blood to your right leg, and the left iliac vein, which brings blood out of your left leg toward your heart. In May-Thurner syndrome, the right iliac artery squeezes the left iliac vein when they cross each other in your pelvis. Because of that pressure, blood can’t flow as freely through the left iliac vein (envision stepping partway down on a hose).That added pressure leaves a narrower opening, making you more susceptible to developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in your left leg, a type of blood clot that can be very serious. Not only can DVT block blood flow in your leg, it can also break off and cause a clot in your lung--or a pulmonary embolism--which can be life-threatening.

Risk factors for May-Thurner syndrome

You’re more likely to get May-Thurner syndrome if you:

Diagnosing May-Thurner Syndrome

We review your medical history and symptoms, complete a physical exam to look for symptoms of MTS, and perform diagnostic imaging. You may have one or more of the following:

Treating May-Thurner syndrome

When we treat MTS there are two goals: to treat any clots you already have and to keep new ones from forming.

Angioplasty and stent. This is a common treatment for May-Thurner syndrome which involves reopening the vein and restoring normal circulation. First, we guide a catheter through your blood vessels and into the compressed part of the iliac vein and use a small balloon to expand it. Then, you get a device called a stent. It’s a tiny cylinder, made of metal mesh, that stays in 

Clot busters. Thrombolytic therapy may be to treat more serious clots. A thin catheter is inserted to send the medication right to the site of the clot. The drug breaks it down in anywhere from a few hours to a few and keeps the vein open wide so blood can flow normally.  

Blood thinners. These drugs are often used to treat DVT. They can prevent new clots and keep ones you already have from getting bigger. These medicines may be called anticoagulants.

Bypass surgery. A new path for blood to flow is created--like a detour around the part of the left iliac vein that’s getting squeezed.

If you are experiencing symptoms of May Thurner Syndrome, call us to schedule a prompt appointment.

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