Thrombophilia: 2009 update

Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2009 Apr;11(2):114-28. doi: 10.1007/s11936-009-0012-x.


As venous thrombosis is mostly caused by disturbances in the plasma coagulation system, abnormalities of coagulation factors are mostly risk factors for venous thromboembolism (VTE). Relatively little is known about thrombophilias that predispose to arterial thromboembolism. Although some abnormalities in the fibrinolytic pathway appear to predispose to arterial thrombosis, the associations are weak and often inconsistent between studies. At present, there is not enough consistent and clinically meaningful information to include fibrinolytic parameters in a clinical thrombophilia workup. Controversy exists as to which patients and family members to test for thrombophilia. Several testing guidelines exist. Routine screening for inherited thrombophilias is not indicated in patients with VTE provoked by immobility, surgery, and malignancy, or in those with arterial thrombosis with arteriosclerosis risk factors. Heterozygous factor V Leiden (FVL) and prothrombin 20210 mutations increase the risk for recurrent VTE only slightly once anticoagulation is stopped. Therefore, decisions regarding the length of anticoagulant therapy typically are not influenced by finding one of these heterozygous mutations. The main reason to perform thrombophilia testing in a patient is to detect a strong thrombophilia (ie, antithrombin deficiency, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, homozygous FVL, double-heterozygous FVL plus prothrombin 20210 mutation, protein C deficiency, and maybe protein S deficiency). The finding of a strong thrombophilia has several clinical consequences: it decreases the threshold to recommend long-term anticoagulation in a patient with unprovoked VTE; facilitates discussion regarding whether anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy is the preferred empiric treatment for a patient who had an unexplained arterial, nonarteriosclerotic thromboembolic event; and leads to the consideration of testing asymptomatic female family members for the identified thrombophilia(s) so they can be counseled on their risk of thromboembolism, the use of hormonal therapies, and the potential benefit of pre- and postpartum anticoagulant therapy.