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Ann Intern Med. 2007 Dec 4;147(11):766-74.

The risk for fatal pulmonary embolism after discontinuing anticoagulant therapy for venous thromboembolism.

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McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



The long-term risk for fatal pulmonary embolism (PE) after treatment of venous thromboembolism (VTE) may be an important factor in the decision to discontinue this treatment.


To provide reliable and precise estimates of the annual risk for fatal PE and the case-fatality rate of disease recurrence and to assess these outcomes according to the initial presentation of VTE (deep venous thrombosis [DVT], PE, or both) and its etiology (secondary or idiopathic) in patients who have discontinued anticoagulant therapy.


Prospective cohort study.


Academic medical centers.


Inception cohort of patients with a first episode of symptomatic VTE who discontinued anticoagulant therapy.


Incidence rates of any fatal PE (which included sudden death from possible fatal PE) and definite or probable PE per 100 person-years of follow-up and case-fatality rate of recurrent VTE.


Of 2052 patients studied, 1450 had DVT, 310 had PE, and 292 had DVT and PE. The mean duration of previous anticoagulant therapy was 6 months (range, 3 to 39 months), and the mean duration of follow-up after discontinuation of treatment was 54 months (range, 1 to 120 months). The annual risk for any fatal PE and definite or probable fatal PE after discontinuation of anticoagulation was 0.49 events (95% CI, 0.36 to 0.64 events) per 100 person-years and 0.19 events (CI, 0.12 to 0.30 events) per 100 person-years, respectively. The case-fatality rate of recurrent disease was 9.0% (CI, 6.8% to 11.8%) for any fatal PE and 3.8% (CI, 2.4% to 5.9%) for definite or probable fatal PE.


The findings are less pertinent to patients with active cancer, permanent immobility, or high-risk thrombophilia.


The risk for fatal PE is 0.19 to 0.49 events per 100 person-years for patients who have finished a course of anticoagulant therapy for a first episode of symptomatic VTE. The case-fatality rate for death from recurrent PE is 4% to 9%. This information helps to inform patient prognosis and may assist clinicians in deciding whether to discontinue anticoagulant therapy for VTE.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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