Review

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 425-429

First online:

Long-term outcomes after deep vein thrombosis: Postphlebitic syndrome and quality of life

  • Susan R. KahnAffiliated withCenter for Clinical Epidemiology and Community Studies, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital Email author 
  • , Susan SolymossAffiliated withDivision of Hematology, Montreal General Hospital
  • , Donna L. LampingAffiliated withHealth Services Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • , Lucien AbenhaimAffiliated withCenter for Clinical Epidemiology and Community Studies, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital

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Abstract

In this review, we critically assess the literature on the incidence of postphlebitic syndrome, risk factors for its occurrence, available therapeutic options, and its effects on quality of life. As well, we describe available tools to measure postphlebitic syndrome. Recent prospective studies indicate that postphlebitic syndrome, a chronic, potentially disabling condition characterized by leg swelling, pain, venous ectasia, and skin induration, is established by 1 year after deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in 17% to 50% of patients. The only prospectively identified risk factor for its occurrence is recurrent ipsilateral DVT. In the sole randomized study available, daily use of elastic compression stockings after proximal DVT reduced the incidence of postphlebitic syndrome by 50%. Treatment options for established postphlebitic syndrome are limited, but include compression stockings and intermittent compressive therapy with an extremity pump for severe cases. To date, quality of life after DVT has received little attention in the literature. The recent development of the VEINES-QOL questionnaire, a validated venous-disease-specific measure of quality of life, should encourage researchers to include quality of life as a routine outcome measure after DVT. There is no criterion standard for the diagnosis of postphlebitic syndrome, but a validated clinical scoring system does exist. More research on postphlebitic syndrome is needed to enable us to provide DVT patients with comprehensive, evidence-based information regarding their long-term prognosis, to help quantify the prevalence and health care burden of postphlebitic syndrome, and by identifying predictors of poor outcome, to develop new preventive strategies in patients at risk of developing this condition.

Key words

postphlebitic syndrome deep vein thrombosis quality of life long-term outcome