Risk of deep vein thrombosis in patients with cellulitis and erysipelas: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Craig G Gunderson, John J Chang
Thrombosis Research 2013, 132 (3): 336-40

INTRODUCTION: The occurrence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is often considered in patients with cellulitis and erysipelas because of the common presentation of unilateral limb swelling, erythema and pain. Different authors however have reached different conclusions about the prevalence of DVT in these patients and for the need for compression ultrasound (CUS). The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of DVT in patients with cellulitis and erysipelas, and inform the utility of CUS.

METHODS: A systematic literature search was conducted of Medline and Cochrane for studies that reported groups of patients with cellulitis or erysipelas who had CUS to evaluate for DVT. Study quality assessment was based on the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale for Cohort Studies. The incidence rates from the included studies were pooled using a random-effects model to calculate an overall DVT rate. Individual and pooled DVT rates with corresponding upper and lower limits were graphed as a forest plot. Between-study heterogeneity was estimated using the I(2) statistic.

RESULTS: Nine studies were included totaling 1054 patients with cellulitis or erysipelas with 18 DVTs. The overall pooled incidence rate was 2.1% (95% confidence interval, 0.5%-9.1%) for proximal DVT and 3.1% (95% confidence interval, 1.9%-4.9%) for any DVT. When analyzed separately, the pooled incidence rate for the three retrospective studies was 1.1% (95% CI, 0.6%-2.2%), while the rate for the six prospective studies was 7.8% (95% CI, 4.2%-14.2%).

CONCLUSION: The risk of DVT in cellulitis and erysipelas is low compared to the average risk of patients referred for CUS and comparable to low risk patients as determined by the commonly employed Wells criteria.

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