Thromboprophylaxis in non-surgical cancer patients

Alexander T Cohen, Meredith M P Gurwith, Mark Dobromirski
Thrombosis Research 2012, 129 Suppl 1: S137-45
Acutely ill medical patients with cancer and cancer patients requiring non-surgical therapy are considered as non-surgical cancer patients and are at moderate to high risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE): approximately 10-30% of these patients may develop asymptomatic or symptomatic deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), and the latter is a leading contributor to deaths in hospital. Other medical conditions associated with a high risk of VTE include cardiac disease, respiratory disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatological and infectious diseases. Pre-disposing risk factors in non-surgical cancer patients include a history of VTE, immobilisation, history of metastatic malignancy, complicating infections, increasing age, obesity hormonal or antiangiogenic therapies, thalidomide and lenalidomide therapy. Heparins, both unfractionated (UFH) and low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) and fondaparinux have been shown to be effective agents in prevention of VTE in the medical setting with patients having a history of cancer. UFH and LMWH along with semuloparin also have a role in outpatients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. However, it has not yet been possible to demonstrate a significant effect on mortality rates in this population. UFH has a higher rate of bleeding complications than LMWH. Thromboprophylaxis has been shown to be effective in medical patients with cancer and may have an effect on cancer outcomes. Thromboprophylaxis in patients receiving chemotherapy remains controversial and requires further investigation. There is no evidence for the use of aspirin, warfarin or mechanical methods. We recommend either LMWH, or fondaparinux for the prevention of VTE in cancer patients with acute medical illnesses and UFH for those with significant severe renal impairment. For ambulatory cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy we recommend LMWH or semuloparin. These are safe and effective agents in the thromboprophylaxis of non-surgical cancer patients.

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