Determinants and time course of the postthrombotic syndrome after acute deep venous thrombosis

Ann Intern Med. 2008 Nov 18;149(10):698-707. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-149-10-200811180-00004.


Background: The reason some patients with deep venous thrombosis (DVT) develop the postthrombotic syndrome is not well understood.

Objective: To determine the frequency, time course, and predictors of the postthrombotic syndrome after acute DVT.

Design: Prospective, multicenter cohort study.

Setting: 8 Canadian hospital centers.

Patients: 387 outpatients and inpatients who received an objective diagnosis of acute symptomatic DVT were recruited from 2001 to 2004.

Measurements: Standardized assessments for the postthrombotic syndrome using the Villalta scale at 1, 4, 8, 12, and 24 months after enrollment. Mean postthrombotic score and severity category at each interval was calculated. Predictors of postthrombotic score profiles over time since diagnosis of DVT were identified by using linear mixed modeling.

Results: At all study intervals, about 30% of patients had mild (score, 5 to 9), 10% had moderate (score, 10 to 14), and 3% had severe (score >14 or ulcer) postthrombotic syndrome. Greater postthrombotic severity category at the 1-month visit strongly predicted higher mean postthrombotic scores throughout 24 months of follow-up (1.97, 5.03, and 7.00 increase in Villalta score for mild, moderate, and severe 1-month severity categories, respectively, vs. none; P < 0.001). Additional predictors of higher scores over time were venous thrombosis of the common femoral or iliac vein (2.23 increase in score vs. distal [calf] venous thrombosis; P < 0.001), higher body mass index (0.14 increase in score per kg/m(2); P < 0.001), previous ipsilateral venous thrombosis (1.78 increase in score; P = 0.001), older age (0.30 increase in score per 10-year age increase; P = 0.011), and female sex (0.79 increase in score; P = 0.020).

Limitations: Decisions to prescribe compression stockings were left to treating physicians rather than by protocol. Because international normalized ratio data were unavailable, the relationship between anticoagulation quality and Villalta scores could not be assessed.

Conclusion: The postthrombotic syndrome occurs frequently after DVT. Patients with extensive DVT and those with more severe postthrombotic manifestations 1 month after DVT have poorer long-term outcomes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postthrombotic Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Postthrombotic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stockings, Compression
  • Time Factors
  • Venous Thrombosis / complications*
  • Venous Thrombosis / drug therapy
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control
  • Young Adult


  • Anticoagulants