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Br J Haematol. 2012 Aug;158(4):433-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2012.09196.x. Epub 2012 Jun 26.

Duration of anticoagulant therapy for venous thromboembolism: balancing benefits and harms on the long term.

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


Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is effectively treated with anticoagulant therapy. After an initial treatment phase, extended treatment is effective to prevent recurrence after a first event but this is at the expense of a continued risk of bleeding. Ideally, patients at a high risk of recurrence and low risk of bleeding continue anticoagulant therapy, and for those at low risk of recurrence the duration of treatment can be limited. Identifying these patients, however, is difficult. Duration of treatment after a first VTE provoked by a transient risk factor should be limited to 3 months. Although guidelines suggest extended treatment for all patients after unprovoked VTE unless bleeding risk is high, we emphasize that the long-term risks of recurrent VTE off anticoagulation are uncertain whereas the risk of bleeding associated with anticoagulant therapy increases with age. In the absence of evidence of replaced mortality or improved quality of life with extended anticoagulant treatment, we suggest a limited duration for most patients after a first VTE. Extended treatment can be considered, based mainly on patient preference.

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