Risk of recurrence after a first episode of symptomatic venous thromboembolism provoked by a transient risk factor: a systematic review

Arch Intern Med. 2010 Oct 25;170(19):1710-6. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.367.


Background: We aimed to determine the risk of recurrence for symptomatic venous thromboembolism (VTE) provoked by different transient risk factors.

Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Collaboration Registry of Randomized Trials databases were searched.

Study selection: Prospective cohort studies and randomized trials of patients with a first episode of symptomatic VTE provoked by a transient risk factor and treated for at least 3 months were identified.

Data extraction: Number of patients and recurrent VTE during the 0- to 12-month and 0- to 24-month intervals after stopping therapy, study design, and provoking risk factor characteristics were extracted.

Data synthesis: Annualized recurrence rates were calculated and pooled across studies. At 24 months, the rate of recurrence was 3.3% per patient-year (11 studies, 2268 patients) for all patients with a transient risk factor, 0.7% per patient-year (3 studies, 248 patients) in the subgroup with a surgical factor, and 4.2% per patient-year (3 studies, 509 patients) in the subgroup with a nonsurgical factor. In the same studies, the rate of recurrence after unprovoked VTE was 7.4% per patient-year. The rate ratio for a nonsurgical compared with a surgical factor was 3.0 and for unprovoked thrombosis compared with a nonsurgical factor was 1.8 at 24 months.

Conclusions: The risk of recurrence is low if VTE is provoked by surgery, intermediate if provoked by a nonsurgical risk factor, and high if unprovoked. These risks affect whether patients with VTE should undergo short-term vs indefinite treatment.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Venous Thromboembolism / epidemiology*