Venous thromboembolism in patients with advanced cancer under palliative care: additional risk factors, primary/secondary prophylaxis and complications observed under normal clinical practice

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Abstract

We analyzed the principal risk factors of venous thromboembolism (VTE) (immobilization, recent surgery and previous VTE), prophylaxis with low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) and complications (i.e. severe bleeding, recurrence and death). Patients with advanced cancer under palliative care (PC) and with VTE, were reviewed during the three years before the study. 71 Patients were diagnosed with VTE. 88.7% were outpatients. The risk factors present were: immobilizations in 28 patients (39.4%), recent surgery in 5 (7%) and previous VTE in 23 (32.5%). Prophylaxis was used in 4 (14.3%) patients with immobilization, no patient with recent surgery, and 10 (43.4%) patients with previous VTE. After diagnosis, all patients received treatment with LMWH in therapeutic dosage. The complications observed were: 6 recurrences (8.5%), 11 VTE-related deaths (15.5%), and bleeding events occured in 8 cases (11.3%), 4 (5.6%) of whom suffered severe bleeding; of these patients, 3 (4.2%) died as a result of the bleeding events. In PC patients with advanced cancer, VTE is a serious complication that conditions control of symptoms. The presence of other risk factors, immobilization and previous VTE, is common and LMWH prophylaxis is limited in clinical practice. The risks vs benefits of anticoagulation need to be counterbalanced.

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