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Researchers Discover Minor Leg Injuries Can Increase Thrombosis Risk

A recently published study by Dutch researchers suggests that minor leg injuries, such as ankle sprains, bruising and muscle tears, are linked to increased risk of blood clots in the veins, known as venous thrombosis (VT). These clots can cause painful and, in some cases, fatal complications.

In the Multiple Environmental and Genetic Assessment (MEGA) of risk factors for venous thrombosis study, which was case-controlled and population-based, the University of Leiden researchers found that of 2,471 patients who were treated for VT, 289 (11.7%) had suffered a minor leg injury within the preceding three months. Of the 3,534 controls, only 154 (4%) had experienced a minor injury before a VT during the same time frame. The study participants ranged in age from 18 to 70 years old. Investigators discovered that the association was strongest when the injury occurred within four weeks prior to VT.

Minor injuries at other sites in the body were not associated with thromboembolism. “The association appeared to be local because injuries in the leg were associated strongly with thrombosis, while injuries in other locations were not associated with thrombosis,” wrote Karlijn J. van Stralen, MSc, lead author, and colleagues.

The study acknowledged that patients with leg injuries usually have some degree of immobility, which can increase their risk for VT. It also mentioned that such injuries can cause blood vessel wall damage, which could also predispose patients to blood clots.

In addition, the study showed that a type of inherited thrombophilia heightened the risk considerably. Patients who were carriers of factor V Leiden (FVL) showed a 50-fold increase in the risk of leg injury when compared with uninjured individuals who were not carriers. FVL, first identified in the city of Leiden in 1994, is the most common congenital form of thrombophilia in the U.S. It affects approximately 5% of the Caucasian population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

“Many individuals with minor injuries will have contacted the general practitioner first,” the study authors noted. “Therefore, there may be an important task for general practitioners to identify subjects who are at a high risk of developing venous thrombosis and, subsequently, to provide prophylactic measures.”

The report, “Minor Injuries as a Risk Factor for Venous Thrombosis,” was published in the January 14, 2008, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Source: BBC News (online), January 15, 2008



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