JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Risk factors and prevention of vascular complications in polycythemia vera

T Barbui, G Finazzi
Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis 1997, 23 (5): 455-61
9387204
Risk factors for vascular complications in polycythemia vera (PV) include laboratory and clinical findings. Among laboratory values, the hematocrit has been clearly associated with thrombosis, particularly in the cerebral circulation. Platelet count is a possible but not yet clearly established predictor of vascular complications. Platelet function tests are of little help in prognostic evaluation because most attempts to correlate these abnormalities with clinical events have been disappointing. Clinical predictors of thrombosis include increasing age and a previous history of vascular events. Identifying risk factors for thrombosis is important to initiate therapy. Phlebotomy is associated with an increased incidence of thrombosis in the first 3 to 5 years, whereas chemotherapy may induce a higher risk of secondary malignancies after 7 to 10 years of follow-up. New cytoreductive drugs virtually devoid of mutagenic risk include interferon-alpha and anagrelide, but their role in reducing thrombotic complications remains to be demonstrated. Antithrombotic drugs, such as aspirin, are frequently used in PV, despite doubts regarding safety and efficacy. Two recent studies from the Gruppo Italiano Studio Policitemia Vera (GISP) assessed the rate of major thrombosis as well as the tolerability of low-dose aspirin in PV patients. These investigations created a favorable scenario for launching a European collaborative clinical trial (ECLAP study) aimed at testing the efficacy of low-dose aspirin in preventing thrombosis and prolonging survival in patients with PV.

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