A recent study from the International Working Group on Myeloproliferative Neoplasms Research and Treatment (IWG-MRT) identified prior arterial events and hypertension as risk factors for subsequent arterial thrombosis and prior venous events and age 65 years or older as risk factors for venous thrombosis in polycythemia vera (PV) (Blood 2014;124:3021). In the current single center study, we sought to validate the aforementioned findings from the IWG-MRT and look into further details regarding arterial versus venous thrombosis in PV.


Study patients were selected from our institutional database of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) and fulfilled the 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) criteria for the diagnosis of PV (Blood. 2009;114:937). Screening for the two most frequent mutations other than JAK2 (TET2 and ASXL1) were performed according to conventional methods (Leukemia. 2014;28:2206). Statistical analyses considered clinical and laboratory parameters obtained at time of diagnosis.


Patient characteristics:

Analysis was conducted on 587 patients (median age 60 years; 48% males). ASXL1 and TET2 mutational status was available in 133 patients. Among informative cases, 31% had palpable splenomegaly, 34% microcirculatory symptoms, 30% pruritus, 8% erythromelalgia, 42% hypertension, 9% diabetes and 11% were active tobacco users. TET2 and ASXL1 mutations were documented in 18% and 11%, respectively. During follow-up, 224 (38%) patients died and median follow-up for living patients was 109 months. Median survival was 16 years and leukemic or fibrotic transformations were documented in 4% and 14%, respectively.

Thrombotic events:

A total of 235 (40%) patients experienced at least one thrombotic event before or after diagnosis and included 153 (26%) arterial and 104 (18%) venous events. Thrombotic events were recorded before or at time of diagnosis in 146 (25%) patients and included 97 (17%) arterial and 55 (9%) venous events. Thrombotic events after diagnosis were recorded in 128 (22%) patients and included 82 (14%) arterial and 57 (10%) venous events.

Associations for arterial, venous or all thrombotic events occurring at any time before or after time of diagnosis:

The occurrence of any thrombotic event before or after diagnosis correlated with active tobacco use (p=0.04), diabetes history (p=0.03), hyperlipidemia (p=0.04) and major hemorrhage (p=0.03). The occurrence of any arterial event before or after diagnosis correlated with advanced age (p=0.006), diabetes history (p=0.005), hypertension history (p=0.004) and hyperlipidemia (p<0.0001). The occurrence of any venous event before or after diagnosis correlated with female sex (p=0.008), younger age (p<0.0001), lower platelet count (p=0.0014) and palpable splenomegaly (p=0.006). TET2 or ASXL1 mutations did not correlate with overall, arterial or venous thrombosis.

Risk factors for arterial versus venous events after time of diagnosis:

In univariate/multivariable analysis, thrombosis-free survival (TFS) was adversely affected by prior vascular events (p=0.002/0.03 multivariable) and increased leukocyte count (p=0.03/0.03); arterial thrombosis-free survival was adversely affected by prior arterial events (p<0.0001/P<0.0001), hyperlipidemia (p=0.001/0.03), hypertension (p=0.02/NS) and advanced age (p=0.02/NS); venous thrombosis-free survival was adversely affected by prior venous events (p=0.04/0.05), increased leukocyte count (p=0.0009/0.002), and younger age (p=0.02/NS). In addition, major hemorrhage at diagnosis was associated subsequent venous thrombosis in both univariate and multivariable analysis. TET2 or ASXL1 mutations did not affect the risk of overall, arterial or venous thrombosis.


In contemporarily managed patients with PV, prior vascular events predict future events for both arterial and venous thrombosis; additional risk factors included hyperlipidemia for arterial and increased leukocyte count for venous thrombosis. The current study also identifies association of arterial thrombosis in general with older age and history of hypertension, diabetes or hyperlipidemia whereas venous thrombosis was associated with younger age, female sex and palpable splenomegaly. Additional findings included association of major hemorrhage with thrombosis and higher platelet count with lower risk of venous thrombosis.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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