Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is thought to be a rare occurrence in Asian patients. The clinical features of VTE are elusive and the disease often unsuspected. Objective testing such as the duplex ultrasound scans and pulmonary imaging are necessary as clinical diagnosis alone is inaccurate. Fatality can occur in untreated patients not suspected of the disease as shown by our post-mortem studies. Indeed VTE is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in Singapore. There is a rising trend in the incidence of VTE in Asia. Initial studies found an incidence of about 3 per 10,000 hospital admissions in Hong Kong and Malaysia in 1988 and 1990, respectively; rising to 8 and 15.8 per 10,000 hospital admissions in Singapore 1992 and 2000, respectively. The major risk factors for developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in our patients are immobilisation, surgery and malignancy. While Factor V Leiden mutation and mutation at position 20210 in the prothrombin gene are found to be extremely rare in Chinese, the rest of the thrombophilia has not been formally studied. Studies in Singapore reported rates of 3% to 7% of DVT after general surgery, 9.7% after hip surgery and 14% after total knee replacement surgery. It is difficult to compare with studies from other centres because of differences in patient selection and diagnostic criteria. Studies in Singapore showed that the use of prophylactic low molecular weight heparin completely abolished the occurrence of DVT for patients undergoing total knee replacement and colorectal surgery without an increase in bleeding complications. In conclusion, VTE is not an uncommon problem here. Major acquired risk factors do not differ from the Caucasian populations. VTE is a preventable disease and a better understanding of its epidemiology, patient-risk factors and biological factors will allow better management of this condition.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and its acute complication–pulmonary embolism (PE), is one of the most important preventable causes of death in hospital patients. It also contributes to significant morbidity in terms of post-phleblitic syndrome and chronic venous ulcers.
This article is available only as a PDF. Please click on “Download PDF” on top to view the full article.