Deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are frequently diagnosed in patients encountered in a primary-care practice. In the past 10 years, many important advances have been made regarding the management of these disorders. Risk factors have been better defined than in the past. Several new prophylactic measures—such as external pneumatic compression of the lower extremities, dihydroergotamine in combination with heparin, adjusted-dose heparin, and two-step warfarin therapy—can be used to help prevent deep venous thrombosis in surgical patients. The use of serial impedance plethysmography has expanded options for noninvasive diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis. Correlations between pulmonary embolism and ventilation-perfusion lung scan patterns have been clarified. Although much has been learned about heparin and warfarin that affect common management decisions, the indications for thrombolytic therapy for venous thromboembolism remain controversial. Finally, studies have shown that calf vein thrombi that are not detectable by impedance plethysmography and that show no evidence of proximal propagation by serial impedance plethysmography do not require treatment.
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