Deep vein thrombosis of the axillary-subclavian veins: epidemiologic data, effects of different types of treatment and late sequelae

Eur J Vasc Surg. 1988 Jun;2(3):161-5. doi: 10.1016/s0950-821x(88)80069-0.


Upper extremity deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is uncommon. In the city of Malmö, Sweden (240,000 inhabitants), 296 cases undergoing phlebography due to a suspicion of upper extremity DVT, during 1971-1986 were analysed. 165 arm phlebograms did not reveal any thrombi (56%). In 11 cases (4%) external compression of the vein was found. Thrombi in the axillary or subclavian vein were found in 120 cases (40%) and were classified as primary in 73 cases and secondary in 47 cases. Only seven cases of effort thrombosis were found. Four cases had neurovascular symptoms mimicking thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent elective first rib resection. None of the patients with primary DVT had a fatal pulmonary embolism (FPE). One patient had clinical signs suspicious of pulmonary embolism (PE), however, scintigraphy of the lungs was negative. Of the cases with secondary thrombi three cases had fatal, and one case had contributory PE at autopsy. Additionally, one patient had a non-fatal PE verified scintigraphically. Post-thrombotic sequelae from the arm were in no case so severe that the patient had to change occupation. Patients with primary DVT had moderate complaints in three and mild in fifteen cases. Those with secondary arm thrombi experienced only moderate symptoms in two cases and mild sequelae in fourteen. There was no correlation between the type of treatment and late post-thrombotic symptoms. From this study it can be concluded that phlebography must be undertaken before treatment can be started in patients with a suspected arm DVT. Primary DVT seems to be a "benign" disease, and in general treatment with anticoagulants is sufficient.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Axillary Vein* / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subclavian Vein* / diagnostic imaging
  • Sweden
  • Thrombosis / drug therapy
  • Thrombosis / epidemiology*
  • Thrombosis / etiology