Management of superficial vein thrombosis

B Cosmi
Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis: JTH 2015, 13 (7): 1175-83
Superficial vein thrombosis (SVT) is less well studied than deep vein thrombosis (DVT), because it has been considered to be a minor, self-limiting disease that is easily diagnosed on clinical grounds and that requires only symptomatic relief. The most frequently involved sites of the superficial vein system are the lower limbs, especially the saphenous veins, mostly in relation to varicosities. Lower-limb SVT shares the same risk factors as DVT; it can propagate into the deep veins, and have a complicated course with pulmonary embolism. Clinical diagnosis may not be accurate, and ultrasonography is currently indicated for both confirmation and evaluation of SVT extension. Treatment aims are symptom relief and prevention of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in relation to the thrombotic burden. SVT of the long saphenous vein within 3 cm of the saphenofemoral junction (SFJ) is considered to be equivalent to a DVT, and thus deserving of therapeutic anticoagulation. Less severe forms of lower-limb SVT not involving the SFJ have been included in randomized clinical trials of surgery, compression hosiery, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, unfractionated heparin, and low molecular weight heparins, with inconclusive results. The largest randomized clinical trial available, on 3004 patients with lower-limb SVT not involving the SFJ, showed that fondaparinux 2.5 mg once daily for 6 weeks is more effective than placebo in reducing the risk of the composite of death from any cause and symptomatic VTE (0.9% versus 5.9%). Further studies are needed to define the optimal management strategies for SVT of the lower limbs and other sites, such as the upper limbs.

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