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Thromb Res. 2010 Jun;125(6):e306-9. doi: 10.1016/j.thromres.2010.02.010. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

Incidental venous thromboembolism in cancer patients: prevalence and consequence.

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Department of Vascular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Careful re-evaluation of CT-scans for cancer staging frequently reveals unsuspected venous thromboembolism (VTE) on CT-scans. However, it is unknown how often these findings lead to anticoagulant treatment in daily clinical practice.


Reports from thoracic and/or abdominal CT-scans performed in a consecutive series of patients to stage cancer were retrospectively evaluated to determine the prevalence of incidental venous thromboembolism (iVTE). Presence of pre-existing signs of VTE, anticoagulant treatment and 3-month follow-up were analysed in patients with iVTE.


A total of 1466 staging scans (838 patients) from the year 2006 were included in the analysis. The prevalence of VTE in patients was 2.5% (21/838 patients, 95% confidence interval 1.6-3.8%); the prevalence of VTE on scans was 1.4% (21/1466 scans, 95% CI 0.9-2.2%). Incidental PE or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was observed in 11 (1.3%, 0.7-2.3%) and abdominal vein thrombosis in 9 patients (1.1%, 0.6-2.0%; in the portal (5), mesenteric (3) and renal vein (1), respectively). Nine out of eleven patients with PE/DVT were treated with anticoagulants, while none of the patients with thrombosis in other locations received anticoagulants. One of these patients developed symptomatic PE one month later; otherwise, follow up was uneventful in the untreated patients.


The prevalence of iVTE in patients with cancer in clinical practice is relatively low and most patients with PE or DVT are treated with anticoagulants. For patients with thrombi in other locations, further research is necessary to understand the natural history of these thrombi in order to develop adequate guidelines.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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