How we manage venous thromboembolism during pregnancy
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During pregnancy, physiologic and anatomic changes can complicate the diagnosis of venous thromboembolism (VTE) as well as the management of patients with a high risk of or established VTE. As in nonpregnant subjects, clinical diagnosis of VTE by itself is unreliable and accurate objective testing is essential. Few diagnostic studies of VTE have been performed in pregnant women and, therefore, approaches are largely extrapolated from those used in nonpregnant subjects with modifications to limit the radiation exposure and overcome the limitations of diagnostic testing in pregnancy. Therapy of established VTE during pregnancy consists of therapeutic doses of unfractionated heparin (UFH) or low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH), generally given throughout pregnancy subcutaneously and for 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth. A key unresolved issue includes the optimum dosing of LMWH therapy. Maternal warfarin can be safely used after childbirth because it is safe to use in the breast-fed infant of a mother receiving warfarin. Finally, pregnant women with prior VTE (with or without a hypercoagulable state) have an increased risk of recurrent venous thrombosis. A recent study has demonstrated that for women with a single episode of prior VTE, many can be managed without anticoagulants. However, for many, anticoagulant therapy with prophylactic UFH or LMWH is a reasonable option.
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