Recurrent VTE is frequent and may be fatal; the 2-week case fatality rate after recurrent pulmonary embolism is 11%. However, predictors of VTE recurrence remain uncertain.


To identify independent predictors of VTE recurrence, including interim exposures, adjusted for baseline characteristics and treatments.


Using the resources of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, we identified all Olmsted County, MN residents with objectively-diagnosed incident VTE over the 13-year period, 1988-2000. All patients surviving ≥1 day were followed forward in time for first objectively-diagnosed VTE recurrence, death or other loss to follow-up, or 12/31/2005, whichever came first. VTE recurrence was defined as new thrombosis of a previously uninvolved venous territory or re-thrombosis of a previously involved venous territory after interim clearing of the incident thrombosis. We estimated the cumulative incidence of VTE recurrence using the Kaplan Meier product limit method, both overall and by incident cancer-associated, idiopathic and non-cancer secondary VTE. For all patients with VTE recurrence, and a random sample of all patients with incident VTE, we reviewed the complete medical records in the community and collected demographic and baseline characteristics, treatments (heparin and warfarin [including proportion of time in therapeutic range], IVC filter, aspirin, statins) and interim VTE risk factor exposures. Using a case-cohort study design with Barlow’s weighting scheme, we tested these demographic, baseline and interim characteristics as potential predictors of VTE recurrence using time-dependent Cox proportional hazards modeling.


Among 1261 incident VTE patients who survived ≥1 day, 306 developed recurrent VTE over 6,485 person-years of follow-up. The cumulative incidence of VTE recurrence at 30 and 180 days, and 1 and 5 years, were 4.5%, 8.2%, 10.5% and 20.3%, respectively. The five-year cumulative recurrence rates among patients with incident cancer-associated, idiopathic and non-cancer secondary VTE were 42.6%, 26.8% and 18.5%, respectively. Among the random cohort of 415 incident VTE cases, 381 (92%) and 359 (87%) received heparin and warfarin therapy for a median (IQR) 5 (4 - 7) and 119 (63 - 194) days, respectively. From multivariable analysis, interim exposure to trauma, major surgery (general, cardiac or gynecologic), infection, hospitalization for acute medical illness or active cancer after the incident VTE were each associated with an increased hazard of VTE recurrence, while use of warfarin and achievement of a therapeutic APTT within the first day of starting heparin were associated with reduced hazards. Although measures of time in therapeutic range while on heparin or warfarin were associated with a reduced risk of recurrence from univariate analyses, these results were not significant when adjusting for other risk factors.


Among patients with incident VTE, new exposure to trauma, major surgery, infection, hospitalization for acute medical illness or active cancer are independent predictors of VTE recurrence; patients with such exposures should be considered for VTE prophylaxis.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.