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Keywords:

  • anticoagulation;
  • atherosclerosis;
  • risk factors;
  • thrombophilia;
  • venous thromboembolism

Summary. Background: Recently, we reported an association between asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis and venous thromboembolism (VTE) of unknown origin. We hypothesized that patients with VTE of unknown origin would be at a higher risk of developing symptomatic atherosclerosis than patients with VTE induced by known risk factors. Methods: To examine this hypothesis, we studied 1919 consecutive patients followed prospectively after their first VTE episode. The primary outcome was non-fatal and fatal symptomatic atherosclerotic disease in patients with VTE of unknown origin as compared to those with secondary VTE. An independent committee assessed all study outcomes, and adjusted hazard ratios (HR) were calculated using the Cox's proportional hazards model. Results: After a median follow-up of 48 and 51 months, respectively, at least one symptomatic atherosclerotic complication was detected in 160 of the 1063 patients (15.1%) with VTE of unknown origin, and in 73 of the 856 (8.5%) with secondary VTE. After adjusting for age and other risk factors of atherosclerosis, the HR for symptomatic atherosclerotic complications in patients with VTE of unknown origin compared to those with secondary VTE was 1.6 (95% confidence intervals; CI: 1.2–2.0). When the analysis was restricted to patients without previous symptomatic atherosclerosis, the HR became 1.7 (95% CI: 1.1–2.4). Conclusions: Patients with VTE of unknown origin have a 60% higher risk of developing symptomatic atherosclerotic disease than do patients with secondary venous thrombosis.