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J Clin Oncol. 2003 Oct 1;21(19):3665-75.

Venous thromboembolism associated with long-term use of central venous catheters in cancer patients.

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Division of Internal and Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.


Long-term central venous catheters (CVCs) have considerably improved the management of cancer patients because they facilitate chemotherapy, transfusions, parenteral nutrition, and blood sampling. However, the use of long-term CVCs, especially for chemotherapy, has been associated with the occurrence of upper-limb deep venous thrombosis (UL-DVT). The incidence of clinically overt UL-DVT related to CVCs has been reported to vary between 0.3% and 28.3%. The incidence of CVC-related UL-DVT screened by venography reportedly varies between 27% and 66%. The incidence of clinically overt pulmonary embolism (PE) in patients with CVC-related UL-DVT ranges from 15% to 25%, but an autopsy-proven PE rate of up to 50% has been reported. Vessel injury caused by the procedure of CVC insertion, venous stasis caused by the indwelling CVC, and cancer-related hypercoagulability are the main pathogenetic factors for CVC-related venous thromboembolism (VTE). Several studies have assessed the benefit of the prophylaxis of UL-DVT after CVC insertion in cancer patients. According to the results of these studies, prophylaxis with low molecular weight heparin or a low fixed dose of warfarin has been recently proposed. However, the limitations of the experimental design of the prophylactic studies do not allow definitive recommendations. The recommended therapy for UL-DVT associated with CVC is based on anticoagulant therapy with or without catheter removal. This review focuses on the epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of VTE in cancer patients with long-term CVC.

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