Patient Care

Cancer Guideline for VTE Prophylaxis for Inpatients and Long-Term Treatment With Low-Molecular-Weight Heparin for Acute VTE


Clinical question: On what aspects of VTE management in cancer patients are there consensus among the major guideline panels?

Background: VTE is a common and serious complication of cancer. Patients might be hypercoagulable due to prothrombotic mediators released or mediated by tumor cells, chemotherapeutic agents, debility, central venous catheters, hospitalizations, or surgical procedures. The optimal management often is problematic due to uncertain benefit and risk of bleeding.

Study design: Review of major guideline statements.

Synopsis: The authors examined five VTE guidelines of American and European cancer societies. Each guideline was reviewed to determine the main recommendations and whether there was consensus on key aspects of anticoagulant management.

The study authors concluded that consensus was reached on most key recommendations:

  • VTE prophylaxis in hospitalized medical patients. All five guidelines recommend the use of prophylaxis, though some guidelines recommend anticoagulant prophylaxis for all inpatients in the absence of contraindications and some recommend limiting prophylaxis to immobilized patients. All five recommend the use of either unfractionated heparin, low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH), or fondaparinux.
  • VTE prevention in cancer patients undergoing surgery. All five guidelines recommend anticoagulant prophylaxis in the absence of contraindications and extending prophylaxis approximately four weeks after major surgery.
  • VTE prophylaxis in cancer patients with central venous catheters. Not recommended.
  • VTE prophylaxis in ambulatory cancer patients without central venous catheters. Recommended only for multiple myeloma patients receiving a thalidomide-lenalidomide regimen.
  • Long-term treatment of acute VTE in cancer patients. All five guidelines recommend initial treatment with LMWH for at least three to six months, followed by indefinite treatment with LMWH or a vitamin K antagonist.

Bottom line: Major guideline panels agree on key aspects of VTE management for cancer patients, including the use of prophylaxis for hospitalized medical and surgical patients and the use of long-term LMWH treatment for cancer patients with acute VTE.

Citation: Khorana AA, Streiff MB, Farge D, et al. Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis and treatment in cancer: a consensus statement of major guidelines panels and call to action. J Clin Oncol. 2009; 27(29):4919-4926.

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