Prevention of the Postthrombotic Syndrome with Anticoagulation: A Narrative Review

Thromb Haemost. 2022 Aug;122(8):1255-1264. doi: 10.1055/a-1711-1263. Epub 2021 Dec 1.


The postthrombotic syndrome (PTS) is chronic venous insufficiency secondary to a prior deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It is the most common complication of venous thromboembolism (VTE) and, while not fatal, it can lead to chronic, unremitting symptoms as well as societal and economic consequences. The cornerstone of PTS treatment lies in its prevention after DVT. Specific PTS preventative measures include the use of elastic compression stockings and pharmacomechanical catheter-directed thrombolysis. However, the efficacy of these treatments has been questioned by large randomized controlled trials (RCTs). So far, anticoagulation, primarily prescribed to prevent DVT extension and recurrence, appears to be the only unquestionably effective treatment for the prevention of PTS. In this literature review we present pathophysiological, biological, radiological, and clinical data supporting the efficacy of anticoagulants to prevent PTS and the possible differential efficacy among available classes of anticoagulants (vitamin K antagonists [VKAs], low molecular weight heparins [LMWHs] and direct oral anticoagulants [DOACs]). Data suggest that LMWHs and DOACs are superior to VKAs, but no head-to-head comparison is available between DOACs and LMWHs. Owing to their potentially greater anti-inflammatory properties, LMWHs could be superior to DOACs. This finding may be of interest particularly in patients with extensive DVT at high risk of moderate to severe PTS, but needs to be confirmed by a dedicated RCT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Postphlebitic Syndrome* / complications
  • Postthrombotic Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Postthrombotic Syndrome* / etiology
  • Postthrombotic Syndrome* / prevention & control
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / complications
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / drug therapy
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / prevention & control


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight