Digital ischemia associated with cancer: results from a cohort study

Medicine (Baltimore). 2014 Aug;93(10):e47. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000000047.


Digital ischemia associated with cancer (DIAC) is increasing in frequency and recent reports have suggested the concept of paraneoplastic manifestation. The aims of this study were to characterize the clinical presentation of DIAC and identify clinical features that could lead physicians to diagnose underlying cancer.From January 2004 to December 2011, 100 patients were hospitalized in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rouen University Hospital, France for a first episode of DI. Fifteen (15%) exhibited symptomatic or asymptomatic cancer during the year preceding or following vascular episode and constituted the DIAC group. Other patients without cancer made up the digital ischemia (DI) group.Median time between diagnosis of cancer and episode of digital necrosis was 2 months [0.25-9]. Diagnosis of DI and concomitant cancer was made in 7 of the 15 patients, while DI preceded the malignant disorder in 2 cases and followed it in 6 cases. Histological types were adenocarcinoma for 7 (46.7%), squamous cell carcinoma for 4 (26.7%), and lymphoid neoplasia for 3 patients (20%). Six patients (40%) had extensive cancer. Three patients were lost to follow-up and 5 patients died <1 year after diagnosis of cancer. Cancer treatment improved vascular symptoms in 6 patients (40%). Patients with DIAC, compared to patients with DI, were significantly older (56 years [33-79] vs 46 [17-83] P =0.005), and had significantly lower hemoglobin and hematocrit levels (12.7 g/dl vs 13.9 g/dl; P =0.003 and 38% vs 42%; P =0.003, respectively). Patients with DIAC had a higher platelet rate (420 vs 300 G/L P =0.01), and 6 patients with DIAC (40%) had thrombocytosis. There was no difference between groups either in C-reactive protein level (12 mg/L vs 5 mg/L; P =0.08) or regarding cardiovascular risk factors, presence of autoimmunity, or monoclonal protein.This retrospective study suggests that DIAC may be more prevalent than previously reported. Outcomes of the 2 diseases were not strictly chronologically parallel. However, in the majority of cases, treatment of the tumor resolved vascular involvement. Our findings suggest that age >50 years and thrombocytosis should alert physicians to consider a possible occult malignancy when digital necrosis occurs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fingers / blood supply*
  • France
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult