Background: The appropriate duration of oral anticoagulation after a first episode of venous thromboembolism (VTE) is uncertain and depends upon VTE recurrence rates.
Objective: To estimate VTE recurrence rates and determine predictors of recurrence.
Methods: Patients in Olmsted County, Minnesota, with a first lifetime deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism diagnosed during the 25-year period from 1966 through 1990 (N = 1,719) were followed forward in time through their complete medical records in the community for first VTE recurrence.
Results: Four hundred four patients developed recurrent VTE during 10,198 person-years of follow-up. The overall (probable/definite) cumulative percentages of VTE recurrence at 7, 30, and 180 days and 1 and 10 years were 1.6% (0.2%), 5.2% (1.4%), 10.1% (4.1%), 12.9% (5.6%), and 30.4% (17.6%), respectively. The risk of recurrence was greatest in the first 6 to 12 months after the initial event but never fell to zero. Independent predictors of first overall VTE recurrence included increasing age and body mass index, neurologic disease with paresis, malignant neoplasm, and neurosurgery during the period from 1966 through 1980. Independent predictors of first probable/definite recurrence included diagnostic certainty of the incident event and neurologic disease in patients with hospital-acquired VTE. Recurrence risk was increased by malignant neoplasm but varied with concomitant chemotherapy, patient age and sex, and study year.
Conclusions: Venous thromboembolism recurs frequently, especially within the first 6 to 12 months, and continues to recur for at least 10 years after the initial VTE. Patients with VTE with neurologic disease and paresis or with malignant neoplasm are at increased risk for recurrence, while VTE patients with transient or reversible risk factors are at less risk.