Increased rate of venous thrombosis may be associated with inpatient dihydroergotamine treatment

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To review whether the incidence of catheter-associated venous thromboses was higher in patients receiving IV dihydroergotamine compared to lidocaine.


We retrospectively reviewed all admissions at the University of California, San Francisco Headache Center from February 25, 2008, through October 31, 2014, for age, sex, diagnosis, aura, treatment dose, type of IV line used, days with line, superficial (SVT) or deep venous thrombosis (DVT), and pulmonary embolism (PE).


A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) or midline catheter was placed in 315 of 589 (53%) admissions. Mean age was 38 years with a range of 6 to 79 years; 121 patients (21%) were ≤18 years old. Seventy-four percent (433 of 589) of patients were female. Of 263 dihydroergotamine admissions using a PICC or midline catheter, 19 (7.2%) had either an SVT or DVT or a PE; 2 patients were diagnosed with both DVT and PE. Of 52 lidocaine admissions using a PICC or midline catheter, none had a thrombotic event (p = 0.05, Fisher exact test). Age, sex, aura, total dihydroergotamine dose, and number of days with line were not significant predictors of venous thrombosis.


IV dihydroergotamine treatment may be associated with an increased risk of catheter-associated venous thrombosis. A low threshold for diagnostic ultrasound investigation is appropriate because anticoagulation therapy was frequently required.

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