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June 1992

The Potential Role of Thrombolytic Therapy in Venous Thrombosis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.

Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(6):1265-1267. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400180117019

Background.—  Anticoagulant therapy for lower extremity deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) has been shown to reduce mortality from pulmonary embolism, but subsequent morbidity from the postthrombotic syndrome remains high. Thrombolytic therapy produces higher lysis rates of venous thrombi than heparin alone. Some studies suggest a lower incidence of postthrombotic sequelae after early use of streptokinase. These potential benefits are limited to those patients without contraindications for this therapy.

Methods.—  For the past 3 years we have prospectively studied patients with DVT documented by duplex scanning. The records of these patients were reviewed to determine what proportion of this population would have been candidates for thrombolytic therapy. For this analysis, contraindications to the use of thrombolytic agents included: (1) recent surgery (<1 month); (2) recent major trauma; (3) active or recent bleeding; (4) brain disease (cerebrovascular accident, brain tumor, arteriovenous malformation); (5) pregnancy; and (6) bleeding diathesis. Also, patients with prior ipsilateral DVT and those with acute symptoms present for 7 or more days were not considered to be candidates for thrombolytic therapy.

Results.—  A contraindication to thrombolytic therapy was present in 194 (93%) of 209 patients with a diagnosis of DVT, including four patients with a relative contraindication. Two or more contraindications were present in 65 cases (31%). Recent surgery was the most frequent factor precluding therapy, being present in 71 patients. A history of DVT in the affected leg was present in 45 patients.

Conclusions.—  Only 15 (7%) of 209 patients with DVT exhibited no contraindications for thrombolytic treatment. Only a small fraction of patients with venous thrombosis will be potential candidates for this therapy.(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:1265-1267)