Treatment of superficial vein thrombosis to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: a systematic review

Iris M Wichers, Marcello Di Nisio, Harry R Büller, Saskia Middeldorp
Haematologica 2005, 90 (5): 672-7

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The aim of this systematic review was to summarize the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCT) concerning the efficacy and safety of medical or surgical treatments of superficial vein thrombosis (SVT) for the prevention of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

DESIGN AND METHODS: A systematic search was performed in MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane (CENTRAL) database to identify all randomized trials that evaluated the effect of surgical or medical treatment in the prevention of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in patients with SVT of the legs.

RESULTS: Five studies were included. Pooling of the data was not possible due to the heterogeneity among the studies. Moreover, three studies had major methodological drawbacks limiting the clinical applicability of the results. One of the remaining (pilot) studies showed a non-significant trend in favor of high- compared to low-dose unfractionated heparin for the prevention of VTE. The last remaining study showed a non-significant trend in favor of short-term treatment with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) as compared to placebo shortly after treatment with respect to VTE, but the apparent benefit disappeared after three months of follow-up. Active treatment of SVT reduced the incidences of SVT extension or recurrence.

INTERPRETATION AND CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with a therapeutic or prophylactic dose of LMWH or a NSAID reduces the incidence of SVT extension or recurrence, but not VTE. More RCT are needed before any evidence-based recommendations on the treatment of SVT for the prevention of VTE can be given. With the present lack of solid evidence we would suggest treating patients with at least intermediate doses of LMWH.

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