BMJ Open. 2021 Sep 29;11(9):e050910. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050910.
OBJECTIVES: Severity of a first pulmonary embolism (PE) is sometimes proposed as a criterion for prolonging anticoagulant treatment. However, little evidence supports this idea. We attempted to determine the connection between severity of first PE and the risk of recurrence.
PARTICIPANTS: Patients admitted with PE between 2012 and 2018 and for whom anticoagulant treatment had been discontinued were followed. PEs were classified according to the severity into the following two groups: those with associated cardiac involvement (increased cardiac biomarker(s) and/or echocardiographic right ventricular dysfunction) and those with no cardiac involvement which were classified as non-severe. Recurrence-free survivals were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and compared using the log-rank test.
RESULTS: 417 patients with PEs (186 with cardiac involvement) were followed for at least 1 year after discontinuation of treatment with a mean follow-up of: 3.5±1.9 years. 72 patients (17.3%) experienced venous thromboembolism recurrence: 24 (5.8%), 44 (12 %) and 72 (28.3 %) respectively, at 1, 2 and 5 years. In 63 patients (88%), recurrence was a PE. Mean time to onset of recurrence was 24.9±19.9 months. At 5 years, the recurrence rate is higher when the first PE was associated with cardiac involvement p=0.043. In contrast, in patients with provoked PE, the recurrence rate is higher when the first PE event was associated with cardiac involvement: p=0.032. Multivariate analysis demonstrates that PE severity is an independent factor of recurrence (HR 1.634 (1.015-2.632), p=0.043).
CONCLUSION: We report for the first time a possible link between a higher recurrence rate and the severity of the first PE. This result which must be confirmed in a dedicated prospective trial could become an important criterion for the duration of anticoagulant therapy after a PE.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT04980924.