Background: The incidence of venous thromboembolism has not been well described, and there are no studies of long-term trends in the incidence of venous thromboembolism.
Objectives: To estimate the incidence of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism and to describe trends in incidence.
Methods: We performed a retrospective review of the complete medical records from a population-based inception cohort of 2218 patients who resided within Olmsted County, Minnesota, and had an incident deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism during the 25-year period from 1966 through 1990.
Results: The overall average age- and sex-adjusted annual incidence of venous thromboembolism was 117 per 100000 (deep vein thrombosis, 48 per 100000; pulmonary embolism, 69 per 100000), with higher age-adjusted rates among males than females (130 vs 110 per 100000, respectively). The incidence of venous thromboembolism rose markedly with increasing age for both sexes, with pulmonary embolism accounting for most of the increase. The incidence of pulmonary embolism was approximately 45% lower during the last 15 years of the study for both sexes and all age strata, while the incidence of deep vein thrombosis remained constant for males across all age strata, decreased for females younger than 55 years, and increased for women older than 60 years.
Conclusions: Venous thromboembolism is a major national health problem, especially among the elderly. While the incidence of pulmonary embolism has decreased over time, the incidence of deep vein thrombosis remains unchanged for men and is increasing for older women. These findings emphasize the need for more accurate identification of patients at risk for venous thromboembolism, as well as a safe and effective prophylaxis.