Objectives: This study was performed to describe venous function, residual morphologic abnormalities, and the occurrence of post-thrombotic syndrome in patients with conservatively treated primary upper-extremity deep venous thromboses (UEDVT).
Method: This was a retrospective follow-up study of 31 patients with previous primary UEDVT treated with anticoagulation only, identified by a search of medical records. The mean follow-up time was 5 years. The patients were evaluated by interview, clinical examination, computerized strain-gauge plethysmography, and color duplex ultrasound imaging. The grade of post-thrombotic syndrome was rated according to the Villalta score (0 to 3 on each of four subjective and five clinically assessed features).
Results: The rate of venous emptying was significantly lower in the arms with DVTs than in the contralateral arms (P < .001). Eleven of the patients (35%) had a remaining outflow obstruction in the affected arm (venous emptying <68 mL/100 mL per min). Eighteen (58%) had a residual thrombus according to color duplex ultrasound scans, with four remaining occluded subclavian veins. None of the patients had deep or superficial venous reflux. There was no statistically significant relationship between plethysmographic and duplex findings. Most (77%) of the patients reported remaining symptoms in the affected arm, and there was a significant side difference in upper arm circumference (P < .001). Approximately one third had developed a moderate grade of post-thrombotic syndrome according to the Villalta score (total, 5 to 9). No significant relation was evident between the post-thrombotic syndrome score and duplex findings. Patients with post-thrombotic syndrome had a lower venous emptying value than those without (69 vs 84 mL/100 mL per min), but this difference was not statistically significant.
Conclusions: Patients with conservatively treated previous primary UEDVT had significantly reduced venous outflow capacity and a residual thrombus was common. Swelling of the arm was the most common symptom, and one third had a moderate grade of post-thrombotic syndrome. However, there was no clear relation between hemodynamic and morphologic factors and the development of post-thrombotic syndrome in these 31 patients, examined at a mean of 5 years after an acute DVT episode.