Purpose: To determine the prevalence of symptomatic upper extremity deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and its association with symptomatic acute pulmonary embolism (PE) in a community teaching hospital.
Methods: The prevalence of symptomatic upper extremity DVT was evaluated retrospectively at a community teaching hospital during the 2-year period between July 1, 1998, and June 30, 2000. Patients were identified by International Classification of Disease, ninth revision, clinical modification, discharge codes and a review of the records of all compression Doppler ultrasonograms, venograms of the upper extremities, and magnetic resonance angiograms of the upper extremities.
Results: Symptomatic upper extremity DVT was diagnosed in 65 of 44,136 patients of all ages (0.15%) [or 64 of 34,567 adult patients ≥ 20 years of age; 0.19%]. In seven patients, the upper extremity DVT was shown by venography to extend proximally to the brachiocephalic vein. Among these, the DVT extended to the superior vena cava in two. All of the patients received anticoagulant therapy for upper extremity DVT. No patients developed symptomatic PE. Central lines at the site of the upper extremity DVT were inserted in 39 of 65 patients (60%). Cancer was diagnosed in 30 of 65 patients (46%), 23 cancer patients also had central lines, and 19 patients (29%) had upper extremity DVT with no apparent cause. All patients had swelling of the upper extremities. Erythema over the affected site was present in four patients (6%). Pain was present in 26 patients (40%), although some discomfort due to swelling was present in all patients.
Conclusion: Symptomatic upper extremity DVT is not uncommon in hospitalized patients. Symptomatic PE resulting from upper extremity DVT was not observed in these patients, all of whom were treated with anticoagulants.