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J Vasc Surg. 1998 Oct;28(4):630-7.

A prospective controlled study of the efficacy of short-term anticoagulation therapy in patients with deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremity.

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  • 1Department of Surgery and the Vascular Laboratory, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia University, Charleston, USA.



The long-term risk for recurrent deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and the incidence of post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) after long-term anticoagulation (LTA) therapy have been widely debated. In this study, we compare the results of short-term anticoagulation therapy versus conventional LTA therapy in patients with DVT of the lower extremity.


Baseline assessments of DVT symptoms and risk factors were recorded in 105 patients. Diagnosis was made using duplex ultrasound/venography. Patients were sequentially assigned to 1 of the following treatment protocols: (A) conventional LTA therapy, which included initial intravenous standard heparin followed by warfarin on days 3 to 5 and was continued for 3 months for patients without pulmonary embolism (PE); or (B) short-term therapy, which included the same heparin therapy followed by warfarin on days 2 to 3 and was continued for 6 weeks only. Clinical and duplex ultrasound follow-up was done at 6 weeks, 3 and 6 months, and every 6 months thereafter.


Risk factors, location of DVT, and mean age of the 2 groups were comparable. Mean follow-up was 59 months. There were 4 immediate major complications in patients of group A (4 of 54 [7%]; 2 PEs and 2 significant bleeds) and 3 in patients of group B (3 of 51 [6%]; 1 PE and 2 bleeds). On long-term follow-up, 18 of 43 (42%) patients in group A and 20 of 44 (46%) patients in group B had PTS. Similarly, 10 of 43 (23%) patients in group A and 9 of 44 (20%) patients in group B had 1 or more recurrent thromboembolic events (not statistically significant). A significant difference was demonstrated only in patients with cancer; LTA was favored in reducing recurrent DVT and PTS. Two other patients in group A had late significant complications secondary to warfarin (hemorrhage in 1 and coumadin necrosis in the other), with no complications in group B. The mean number of days of hospitalization were fewer for patients in group B (5 versus 8 days), which is mainly due to earlier initiation of warfarin therapy for group B.


In this study of our local population, we observed that short-term anticoagulation therapy was as effective as LTA therapy and less costly for use in most patients. It may also carry less risk of long-term warfarin complications, such as bleeding or skin necrosis.

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