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Stroke. 2001 Jan;32(1):262-7.

Venous thromboembolism after acute stroke.

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Elderly Care Department, St. Thomas' Hospital, London, England.



Treatment for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is highly effective in preventing morbidity and mortality, yet pulmonary embolism (PE) accounts for up to 25% of early deaths after stroke. This is because the current diagnostic paradigm is reactive rather than proactive: the clinician responds to VTE when it becomes symptomatic, in the expectation that initiation of treatment will prevent progression to more serious manifestations. This approach is flawed, because sudden death from PE is frequently unheralded and nonfatal symptomatic pulmonary emboli are often unrecognized or misdiagnosed.


Morbidity and mortality from PE could be reduced either by more effective thromboprophylaxis or earlier diagnosis and treatment of established VTE. The fact that early use of short-term, low-dose, unfractionated heparin (UFH) is not associated with sustained, clinically meaningful benefit suggests that a fundamental change in the diagnostic approach to VTE is needed, one which requires a greater appreciation that clinically apparent events are merely the tip of the thromboembolism iceberg.


Research into a strategy of screening for subclinical VTE in these patients is needed, with a view to identifying a subgroup at risk of progression to symptomatic and life-threatening events, in whom outcome might be improved by anticoagulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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