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Calf Vein Thrombosis Outcomes Comparing Anticoagulation and Serial Ultrasound Imaging Management Strategies

      Abstract

      Objective

      To compare outcomes among patients with calf deep vein thrombosis (DVT) stratified by management strategy because distal or calf DVT is said to have low rates of propagation, embolization, and recurrence and, as such, guideline recommendations include provisions for serial imaging without treatment.

      Patients and Methods

      Consecutive patients with ultrasound-confirmed acute DVT involving the calf veins (January 1, 2016, to August 1, 2018) were identified by scrutinizing the Gonda Vascular Center Ultrasound database. Patients were segregated into 2 categories depending on management strategy; anticoagulation vs serial surveillance ultrasound without anticoagulation. Outcomes including venous thromboembolism (VTE) recurrence, bleeding, death, and net clinical benefit were compared by treatment strategy.

      Results

      There were 483 patients with calf DVT identified; 399 were treated with anticoagulation therapy and 84 were managed with surveillance ultrasound. Patients in the surveillance group were older (70.0±13.9 vs 63.0±14.9 years; P<.001) and more likely to have had a recent hospitalization (76.2% [64/84] vs 45.4% [181/399]; P<.001). Common reasons for choosing ultrasound surveillance included guideline prescriptive (58.3% [49/84]), active bleeding (21.4% [18/84]), and recent surgery (17.9% [15/84]). The VTE recurrence composite was lower for patients treated with anticoagulants (7.3% [29/399]) compared with surveillance (14.3% [12/84]; P=.04). The DVT propagation was less frequent in the treated group (2.8% [11/399] vs 8.3% [7/84]; P=.01). There was no difference in bleeding or mortality outcomes by management strategy. Net clinical benefit (VTE recurrence plus major bleeding) favored anticoagulant therapy (9.8% [39/399] vs 20.2% [17/84]; P<.01).

      Conclusion

      Patients with calf DVT treated with anticoagulants had significantly better outcomes compared with those managed by a strategy of serial ultrasound surveillance without increasing bleeding outcomes.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      DVT (deep vein thrombosis), LMWH (low-molecular-weight heparin), NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), PE (pulmonary embolism), VTE (venous thromboembolism)
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