May-Thurner Syndrome is a medical condition in which the left iliac artery compresses the left iliac vein in the pelvis. This increases the left iliac vein pressure and reduces blood flow and stagnation of blood in the leg veins.
May-Thurner Syndrome (MTS) is also called iliac vein compression syndrome. Without early diagnosis and prompt treatment, individuals with this condition may develop venous diseases such as deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the leg’s deep veins) and varicose veins.
What causes May-Thurner Syndrome?
Sometimes, arteries and veins transport blood to tissues without any compression. However, in MTS, the crossover of the left iliac artery over the left iliac vein compresses it against the bone in the lower back.
MTS is more common in women than men. In addition to being female, other risk factors include:
- Abnormal spine curvature
- Immediate postpartum
May-Thurner Syndrome may likely occur in individuals with these risk factors combined with the left iliac artery overlying the left iliac vein.
Effect of May-Thurner Syndrome on the veins
The left iliac vein compression elevates the pressure in the leg veins and produces abnormal venous changes. The persistent high venous pressure causes varicose veins and weakens the venous valves.
Also, the sluggish blood flow raises the risk of abnormal blood clot formation in the leg’s deep veins. Varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are the most common vein conditions in people with May-Thurner Syndrome.
Symptoms of May-Thurner Syndrome
You may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of May-Thurner Syndrome.
This is one of the reasons MTS is not diagnosed early unless the individuals at risk receive regular clinical screening from a vein specialist.
Though as MTS progresses, you could develop any of the following symptoms in the left leg:
- Significant leg swelling
- Leg pain
- Varicose veins
- Discolored skin
- Leg heaviness
Without prompt intervention, MTS complications such as DVT can develop.
These blood clots may flow away from the leg veins and then lodge in the lung veins causing life-threatening symptoms such as:
- Severe chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Severe anxiety
The presence of these symptoms indicates a need for urgent medical intervention.
How to diagnose May-Thurner Syndrome?
After taking a clinical history, your doctor will examine your legs for signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Further investigations such as imaging tests are critical for accurate clinical diagnosis.
As shown in imaging tests, MTS is diagnosed when there is radiological evidence of narrowing of the left iliac vein.
Here are some of the imaging tests necessary for diagnosis:
- Doppler ultrasound
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Special X-ray with a dye injected to make your leg veins visible
How do you manage May-Thurner Syndrome?
May-Thurner Syndrome is managed using multiple treatment methods. A vein specialist is a qualified professional who determines the appropriate treatment method suitable for you. The treatment method chosen helps relieve the compression in MTS and prevents the risk of DVT.
May-Thurner Syndrome Treatment
The treatment aims to improve blood flow in the left iliac vein via various techniques. The physician uses a minimally invasive procedure to insert a flexible cylindrical tube into the narrow part of the left iliac vein to widen it.
This helps improve blood flow and reduce the pressure in the leg veins.
Also, bypass surgery is another option for diverting blood away from the compressed part of the left iliac vein.
People with MTS are given blood thinners to prevent the formation of blood clots. This reduces the risk of DVT and other life-threatening complications of MTS.
If physical examination and imaging tests reveal there are blood clots in your leg veins, your physician will provide treatment for DVT.
At Virginia Vein Care, our vein specialists will select the most appropriate treatment method for you based on our clinical findings.
Have you screened your leg veins?
May-Thurner Syndrome is often undetected until complications such as varicose veins and DVT are noticed. When you receive periodic clinical examinations of your leg veins, your vein specialist can examine and detect any warning signs early.
At Virginia Vein Care, we specialize in conducting thorough clinical evaluations of veins, and we use evidence-based best practices to treat vein diseases. Visit a Virginia Vein Care location near you if you have related vein conditions.