[Sudden death in venous diseases]

Phlebologie. 1986 Jan-Mar;39(1):149-55.
[Article in French]


We have studied 286 cases of sudden death due to massive pulmonary embolism. In 155 women and 131 men, we made a statistical analysis of the average age, the presence of thrombosis, varices, atherosclerosis, and other complications, and also dietary considerations. We present a detailed observation of a thirty-two year old woman, who died following massive pulmonary embolism, the source of which was thrombosis of the ovarian and pelvic veins. We learned that this woman, who did not smoke, and whose liver was slightly affected, had, for three years, been taking an uninterrupted course of the contraceptive pill Non-Ovlon.

PIP: Between 1963-82, 286 deaths were diagnosed after autopsy as due to pulmonary embolism at the Medico-Legal Institute of Plzen, Czechoslovakia. In almost 95% of cases, there was a massive and acute embolism of the pulmonary artery. 155 women and 131 men were involved. The average age of victims was 70 years for women and 66 for men. A thrombosis of the deep veins of the legs was found in 95% of the men and women. Unilateral or bilateral varices or their trophic complications were observed in 30% of women and 27% of men. Almost all patients were affected by arteriosclerosis, with the most serious sclerosis occurring in 32% of the women and 27% of the men. 32% of the men and 53% of the women were obese. The pulmonary embolism coexisted with another serious illness or a trauma in over 90% of cases. The deaths of 12 men and 13 women under 50 years old were studied in greater detail. In this group the cause of death was massive embolism of the pulmonary artery accompanied by deep thrombosis of the legs. The greatest differences were found in the degree of sclerosis of the arteries. Trauma preceded death in 30% of these patients. 50% of the women and 30% of the men were obese. A 32-year-old obese, nonsmoking woman originally consulted for intolerable back pains. About 8 days later she was hospitalized and died. The autopsy revealed a massive and acute pulmonary embolism with vast hemorrhagic infarcts. Thrombosis of the veins was discovered to be the source of the embolism. Microscopic examination also disclosed a venous thrombosis in the ovaries. A proliferation of elastic tissue and a visible thickening of the intima were seen in the arteries, as well as a dilatation of the lymphatic vessels. There was no indication of thrombophlebitis in the leg veins. The medical history showed that the woman had been taking an oral contraceptive (OC) for the past 3 years and continued doing so until the day before her death. The woman's gynecologist stated that 4 months before her death a routine liver examination was slightly positive and the patient was advised to discontinue her combined OC (Non-Ovlon) for 3 months. The woman felt well and disregarded the advice. Non-Ovlon contains 1 mg of norethisterone acetate and .5 mg of ethinyl estradiol.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arteriosclerosis / complications
  • Chlormadinone Acetate / adverse effects
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined / adverse effects
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norethindrone / adverse effects
  • Obesity / complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications*
  • Thrombophlebitis / complications*
  • Varicose Veins / complications


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined
  • Drug Combinations
  • Chlormadinone Acetate
  • Non-Ovlon
  • Norethindrone