Vein Condition May Lead to Deadly Blood Clot

Superficial Vein Thrombosis puts patients at risk of more serious blood clots

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's not uncommon for individuals to get small blood clots in veins just beneath the skin that easily heal without treatment. However, it may put those patients at a higher risk of developing a deadly blood clot.

Patients that have been clinically diagnosed with superficial vein thrombosis are up to six times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis, which could lead to a pulmonary embolism. Either could be life-threatening.

"Tell your doctor if you've had superficial vein thrombosis."

Dr. Suzanne C. Cannegieter, senior study author and senior clinical researcher in the department of clinical epidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said it is extremely important to recognize the risks for a potentially deadly blood clot that could lead to a pulmonary embolism because the situation can get serious very quickly.

Recent studies have shown that patients diagnosed with superficial vein thrombosis using an ultrasound to confirm the condition are at an increased risk. It's not yet known whether patients diagnosed without an ultrasound also are at an increased risk.

In clinical practice, doctors often identify superficial vein thrombosis by simply viewing swelling and redness. Additional ultrasound testing is often not needed to confirm a diagnosis.

Researchers analyzed questionnaire responses from 4,290 patients with venous thromboembolism and 5,644 control participants that did not have the condition. Participants in the study previously participated in the MEGA study, a large study that assessed venous thromboembolism risk in 5,000 patients from six clinics in the Netherlands from March 1999 to September 2004. An additional 6,000 participants acted as control subjects.

For the current study, investigators also assessed whether patients had superficial vein thrombosis before developing more serious blood clots. About 10 percent of patients previously experienced superficial vein thrombosis from the thromboembolism group, while 2 percent in the control group reported suffering from the ailment. All patients with prior thromboembolism were found to be at a four times greater risk of a pulmonary embolism.

Researchers recommend that doctors ask about a history of superficial vein thrombosis since it may be a risk factor for potentially deadly blood clots.

The study was published in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology.

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Review Date: 
August 22, 2011
Last Updated:
August 23, 2011