Critically ill patients are at risk of venous thrombosis, and therefore guidelines recommend daily thromboprophylaxis. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) commonly occurs in the lower extremities but can occur in other sites including the head and neck, trunk, and upper extremities. The risk of nonleg deep venous thromboses (NLDVTs), predisposing factors, and the association between NLDVTs and pulmonary embolism (PE) or death are unclear.
To describe the frequency, anatomical location, risk factors, management, and consequences of NLDVTs in a large cohort of medical-surgical critically ill adults.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A nested prospective cohort study in the setting of secondary and tertiary care intensive care units (ICUs). The study population comprised 3746 patients, who were expected to remain in the ICU for at least 3 days and were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial of dalteparin vs standard heparin for thromboprophylaxis.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The proportion of patients who had NLDVTs, the mean number per patient, and the anatomical location. We characterized NLDVTs as prevalent or incident (identified within 72 hours of ICU admission or thereafter) and whether they were catheter related or not. We used multivariable regression models to evaluate risk factors for NLDVT and to examine subsequent anticoagulant therapy, associated PE, and death.
Of 3746 trial patients, 84 (2.2%) developed 1 or more non–leg vein thromboses (superficial or deep, proximal or distal). Thromboses were more commonly incident (n = 75 [2.0%]) than prevalent (n = 9 [0.2%]) (P < .001) and more often deep (n = 67 [1.8%]) than superficial (n = 31 [0.8%]) (P < .001). Cancer was the only independent predictor of incident NLDVT (hazard ratio [HR], 2.22; 95% CI, 1.06-4.65). After adjusting for Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II scores, personal or family history of venous thromboembolism, body mass index, vasopressor use, type of thromboprophylaxis, and presence of leg DVT, NLDVTs were associated with an increased risk of PE (HR, 11.83; 95% CI, 4.80-29.18). Nonleg DVTs were not associated with ICU mortality (HR, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.62-1.92) in a model adjusting for age, APACHE II, vasopressor use, mechanical ventilation, renal replacement therapy, and platelet count below 50 × 109/L.
Conclusions and Relevance
Despite universal heparin thromboprophylaxis, nonleg thromboses are found in 2.2% of medical-surgical critically ill patients, primarily in deep veins and proximal veins. Patients who have a malignant condition may have a significantly higher risk of developing NLDVT, and patients with NLDVT, compared with those without, appeared to be at higher risk of PE but not higher risk of death.
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00182143