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Medical management of venous thromboembolic disease.

Venous thromboembolic disease (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism) are common disorders with serious morbid and mortal complications. Given the varied modes of presentation, a high clinical index of suspicion in patients at risk must exist among physicians. Standard therapy has consisted of intravenous unfractionated heparin and overlapping administration of an oral Vitamin K antagonist, commonly Warfarin. Although an effective strategy, many practical limitations exist, including the need for prolonged hospitalization, frequent laboratory monitoring for anticoagulant effect, and erratic dose-response curves. Recently, subcutaneous low-molecular-weight heparins have emerged as safe and effective alternatives for unfractionated heparin. Appropriate patients may be treated with low-molecular-weight heparins and oral Warfarin entirely as outpatients, with similar efficacy and risk of recurrent thromboembolic events and hemorrhage. Thrombolytic therapy is a reasonable alternative in patients with iliofemoral venous thrombosis and/or pulmonary embolism resulting in hemodynamic compromise or obstructing significant pulmonary vasculature. Risks of serious hemorrhagic side effects including intracranial hemorrhage, along with the added economic burden, have limited widespread acceptance of thrombolytic therapy as primary treatment. Emerging oral direct thrombin inhibitors and other novel agents stand to move the treatment of patients with venous thromboemboli to even greater levels of safety and efficacy.

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