Anticoagulant treatment for upper extremity deep vein thrombosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Thromb Haemost. 2022 Mar;20(3):661-670. doi: 10.1111/jth.15614. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Background: Data on anticoagulant treatment for upper extremity deep vein thrombosis (UEDVT) are largely derived from studies on usual site venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Objectives: The objective of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of anticoagulant therapy for UEDVT.

Patients/methods: A systematic search of MEDLINE and EMBASE was conducted for studies including patients with UEDVT. Primary outcomes were recurrent VTE and major bleeding. Secondary outcomes included clinically-relevant non-major bleeding and all-cause mortality. Summary estimates with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by random-effect meta-analysis.

Results: A total of 1473 patients from 11 prospective and nine retrospective studies were included. Sixty percent of patients had an indwelling catheter and 56.1% had cancer. Anticoagulant treatment consisted of direct oral anticoagulants, low molecular weight heparin followed by vitamin K antagonists, and low molecular weight heparin alone in 45.1%, 35.0%, and 19.9% of patients, respectively. During a median follow-up of 13 months, recurrent VTE occurred in 3% of patients (95% CI: 2-4; 21/1334 patients), major bleeding in 3% (95% CI: 2%-5%; 29/1235 patients), clinically-relevant non-major bleeding in 4% (95% CI: 3-6; 40/1075 patients), and all-cause mortality in 9% (95% CI: 5-15; 108/1084 patients). Rates of these outcomes were not significantly different between patients with or without cancer, patients with or without an indwelling catheter, and among those receiving different anticoagulant treatments.

Conclusions: In patients with UEDVT, anticoagulant treatment is associated with a low risk of recurrent VTE and a nonnegligible risk of major bleeding.

Keywords: anticoagulants; direct-acting oral anticoagulant; low molecular weight heparin; upper extremity deep vein thrombosis; venous thromboembolism.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Upper Extremity Deep Vein Thrombosis* / etiology
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / etiology


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight