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J Clin Pathol. 1989 Aug;42(8):805-9.

Prevalence of pulmonary embolism at necropsy in patients with cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Bergen, Norway.


The series studied comprised 6197 patients who had died of or who had cancer at death and represents all patients with cancer from 21,530 necropsies performed at this department from 1960-84. Pulmonary embolism was significantly more common among cancer patients than in those with non-neoplastic diseases. Among those palliatively treated, patients with ovarian cancer, cancer of the extrahepatic bile duct system, and cancer of the stomach had the highest prevalence of pulmonary embolism (34.6%, 31.7%, and 15.2%, respectively). Necropsy patients with cancer of the oesophagus and larynx, together with leukaemia, myelomatosis, and malignant lymphoma had the lowest prevalence (0-5.6%). Palliatively treated cancers in organs of the peritoneal cavity had a significantly higher incidence than all other cancers combined. Cancer of the peritoneal cavity may impede venous drainage from the lower limbs and thus be an important factor in the onset of deep calf vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. It is concluded that cancer represents an increased risk factor for onset of pulmonary embolism, in particular in patients with ovarian cancer and cancer of the extrahepatic bile duct system.

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