The incidence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in patients with erysipelas and cellulitis of the lower extremities is unknown. As such, the indication and efficacy of prophylactic anticoagulation for prevention of DVT in these patients is unclear. The main goal of this review is to provide an estimate of the incidence of DVT in erysipelas and cellulitis based on existing literature.
A comprehensive search of the electronic sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, LILAC and Cochrane without any language limitation was performed from 1950 to April 2011 for articles focused on the occurrence of DVT in cellulitis or erysipelas of the lower extremities.
The selected studies were divided into two groups according to presence or absence of systematic investigation for DVT. Those studies in which the patients received prophylactic or therapeutic anticoagulants before a diagnosis of DVT were excluded.
The reported incidence rate of DVT in patients with erysipelas or cellulitis of the lower extremities is highly variable, ranging from 0 to 15%. In this review, the overall incidence rates of DVT in studies with and without systematic investigation for thromboembolism were 2.72% (95% CI: 1.71–3.75%) and 0.68% (95% CI: 0.27–1.07%), respectively.
Given the low reported overall incidence of DVT, neither routine prophylactic anticoagulation nor systematic paraclinical investigation for DVT is indicated in low risk patients with erysipelas or cellulitis of the lower extremities. DVT should still be considered in patients with high pretest probability or other thromboembolic risk factors.