Antithrombotic therapy for venous thromboembolic disease: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (8th Edition)

Chest. 2008 Jun;133(6 Suppl):454S-545S. doi: 10.1378/chest.08-0658.


This chapter about treatment for venous thromboembolic disease is part of the American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (8th Edition). Grade 1 recommendations are strong and indicate that the benefits do or do not outweigh risks, burden, and costs. Grade 2 suggests that individual patient values may lead to different choices (for a full understanding of the grading, see "Grades of Recommendation" chapter). Among the key recommendations in this chapter are the following: for patients with objectively confirmed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), we recommend anticoagulant therapy with subcutaneous (SC) low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH), monitored IV, or SC unfractionated heparin (UFH), unmonitored weight-based SC UFH, or SC fondaparinux (all Grade 1A). For patients with a high clinical suspicion of DVT or PE, we recommend treatment with anticoagulants while awaiting the outcome of diagnostic tests (Grade 1C). For patients with confirmed PE, we recommend early evaluation of the risks to benefits of thrombolytic therapy (Grade 1C); for those with hemodynamic compromise, we recommend short-course thrombolytic therapy (Grade 1B); and for those with nonmassive PE, we recommend against the use of thrombolytic therapy (Grade 1B). In acute DVT or PE, we recommend initial treatment with LMWH, UFH or fondaparinux for at least 5 days rather than a shorter period (Grade 1C); and initiation of vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) together with LMWH, UFH, or fondaparinux on the first treatment day, and discontinuation of these heparin preparations when the international normalized ratio (INR) is > or = 2.0 for at least 24 h (Grade 1A). For patients with DVT or PE secondary to a transient (reversible) risk factor, we recommend treatment with a VKA for 3 months over treatment for shorter periods (Grade 1A). For patients with unprovoked DVT or PE, we recommend treatment with a VKA for at least 3 months (Grade 1A), and that all patients are then evaluated for the risks to benefits of indefinite therapy (Grade 1C). We recommend indefinite anticoagulant therapy for patients with a first unprovoked proximal DVT or PE and a low risk of bleeding when this is consistent with the patient's preference (Grade 1A), and for most patients with a second unprovoked DVT (Grade 1A). We recommend that the dose of VKA be adjusted to maintain a target INR of 2.5 (INR range, 2.0 to 3.0) for all treatment durations (Grade 1A). We recommend at least 3 months of treatment with LMWH for patients with VTE and cancer (Grade 1A), followed by treatment with LMWH or VKA as long as the cancer is active (Grade 1C). For prevention of postthrombotic syndrome (PTS) after proximal DVT, we recommend use of an elastic compression stocking (Grade 1A). For DVT of the upper extremity, we recommend similar treatment as for DVT of the leg (Grade 1C). Selected patients with lower-extremity (Grade 2B) and upper-extremity (Grade 2C). DVT may be considered for thrombus removal, generally using catheter-based thrombolytic techniques. For extensive superficial vein thrombosis, we recommend treatment with prophylactic or intermediate doses of LMWH or intermediate doses of UFH for 4 weeks (Grade 1B).

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Fondaparinux
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • International Normalized Ratio
  • Polysaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Pulmonary Embolism / drug therapy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Venous Thrombosis / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin K / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin K / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Polysaccharides
  • Vitamin K
  • Fondaparinux