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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 202-204

Axillary vein thrombosis

Department of Surgery, MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai, India

Date of Web Publication10-Jun-2013

Correspondence Address:
Vishal Yadav
103/A Sani Apartment, S.V. Road, Jogeshwari (West), Mumbai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4958 .113256

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We report a case of axillary vein thrombosis in a 45-year-old-man, sustained after fall of heavy object over the right upper limb. Three days later, a diagnosis of right distal axillary vein thrombosis was made. Patient was given subcutaneous low molecular weight heparin followed by oral warfarin. His symptoms disappeared after 3 months of treatment. It is important to be aware of this unusual but potentially serious complication, as early diagnosis and treatment may limit morbidity and mortality.

Keywords: Axillar vein thrombosis, Doppler, Thrombolytic therapy

How to cite this article:
Joseph S, Raza A, Jadhav RR, Yadav V. Axillary vein thrombosis. J Med Soc 2012;26:202-4

How to cite this URL:
Joseph S, Raza A, Jadhav RR, Yadav V. Axillary vein thrombosis. J Med Soc [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 Aug 14];26:202-4. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Deep vein thrombosis in the upper limb is relatively rare. The main causes of such thrombosis include anatomical abnormalities in the costo-clavicular area, trauma, injuries sustained during central venous catheterization, use of intravenous drugs, and hyper-coagulable states. We present a case of right axillary vein thrombosis following fall of heavy object over elbow joint.

  Case Report Top

A 45-year-old man presented to accident and emergency department with pain of recent onset in his right arm following fall of heavy object on his arm 3 days back. His arm was swollen, dusky and there was 3 × 3 cm abrasion over his right elbow joint [Figure 1]. He developed pain on full abduction and there was venous engorgement on the affected side.
Figure 1 : The arm was swollen, dusky and a 3 × 3 cm abrasion over his right elbow joint

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He was diagnosed to have soft-tissue injury with cellulitis and advised analgesics and a pouch arm sling. Three days after injury, he noticed swelling, heaviness, and tightness in his right upper arm. He denied any shortness of breath and chest pain.

On physical examination, swelling of the entire right arm was noted. He had a large bruise on the anterolateral aspect of the arm extending from the shoulder to the mid arm. His radiogram showed no bony injury and his distal neurovascular examination was normal. There was no jugular vein distension or dilated peripheral veins around the right shoulder.

A Doppler ultrasound of the right upper limb showed soft thrombus in lower half of right axillary vein [Figure 2]. No family history of hematological disorders. He gave a history of smoking 20 beedi/day for the last 15 years.
Figure 2 : A Doppler ultrasound of the right upper limb showed soft thrombus in lower half of right axillary vein

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All other aspects of history and examination were normal. Investigations showed an elevated hemoglobin, elevated hematocrit. D-dimer was elevated - consistent with a thrombosis.

The arm was elevated and the patient was given subcutaneous low molecular weight heparin for 3 days. He was then given intravenous unfractionated heparin followed by oral warfarin. The international normalized ratio was kept at 2.0-2.5.

The swelling reduced completely and he was discharged after 1 month. A repeat Doppler showed recanalization of thrombosed vein. Oral anticoagulants were continued for 6 months. He was advised to followed-up every 3 months in the 1 st year and then every 6 months for another 2 years.

  Discussion Top

Deep vein thrombosis in the upper extremity is a rare but major thromboembolic complication, resulting in symptomatic, and fatal pulmonary embolism. [3] The underlying mechanisms of thrombosis are thought to be a venous compressive anomaly at the thoracic outlet or intimal damage due to a strain of the subclavian and axillary veins by retroversion or hyperabduction of the arm. [1] These movements are usually done during sport activities and deep vein thrombosis may occur in young adults with associated external compression of the vein by cervical ribs, malunited clavicle fractures, tumors, and hypertrophy of the scalene muscles. Other risk-factors described are estrogen ingestion, pregnancy, intravenous catheters, anti-neoplastic agents, and pacemakers. [2]

Although, early clinical recognition of UEDVT is important, diagnosis may be difficult because of its indeterminate cause and indistinct pathophysiology.

Symptoms are non-specific, vary in severity, may be position-dependent, and occasionally, the patient may be entirely asymptomatic. [4] Most commonly, the patient complains of initial heaviness in the affected arm, as well as a dull ache and pain of the involved limb. Other signs may include swelling of the shoulder and arm, discoloration and mottled skin, and distension of the cutaneous veins of the arm. A high index of clinical suspicion is required to detect and make a diagnosis. [4]

The treatment goals are to relieve the acute symptoms of venous occlusion, prevent pulmonary embolism, reduce the likelihood of recurrent thrombosis, and avoid development of post-thrombotic syndrome. [5] Thrombolysis and anticoagulation are the mainstay of treatment. Early diagnosis provides an opportunity for rapid venous recanalization with effective thrombolytic therapy. Suggested optimal period for thrombolytic treatment is within 6 weeks of the thrombosis. [6] Anticoagulants are used to prevent further deposition of the thrombus, allowing an established thrombus to stabilize, and to undergo endogenous lysis, reducing the risk of recurrent thrombosis.

Deep vein thrombosis has been reported in shoulder surgery, shoulder dislocations, and clavicle fractures. [2],[7],[8] In orthopedic practice, differentiation of deep vein thrombosis from skeletal injury and soft tissue injury is of paramount importance due to similar signs and symptoms produced by both. Moreover, the splintage given in soft tissue and bony injuries of upper extremity can easily hide the arm swelling produced by deep vein thrombosis.

Mechanism of injury in our case is not clear. The insult was of lesser magnitude to initiate thrombosis and no additional clotting abnormalities were noted. The patient did have a smoking history that might have predisposed him to venous thrombosis. Smoking has been shown to damage vascular endothelium, promote vascular thrombosis, and increase the relative risk of venous thromboembolism. Smoking more than 15 beedi/day can increase the relative risk twofold over that of age-matched non-smoking control subjects. [7]

Hyperabduction or stretching of the affected extremity may damage the intimal wall of the axillary or subclavian vein. [8] Although, such maneuvers are frequently without incident in daily life, in our patient, such a maneuver might have been sufficient to lead to thrombosis.

In conclusion, it is important to be aware of this unusual but potentially, serious complication as early diagnosis and treatment may limit morbidity and mortality. We must be aware of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis of the upper extremity, and have a high index of suspicion as the symptoms can be easily attributed to the primary injury, resulting in failure to recognize a UEDVT.

  References Top

1.Roche-Nagle G, Ryan R, Barry M, Brophy D. Effort thrombosis of the upper extremity in a young sportsman: Paget-Schroetter syndrome. Br J Sports Med 2007;41:540-1.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Adla DN, Ali A, Shahane SA. Upper-extremity deep-vein thrombosis following a clavicular fracture. Eur J Orthop Surg Traumatol 2004;14:177-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Black MD, French GJ, Rasuli P, Bouchard AC. Upper extremity deep venous thrombosis. Underdiagnosed and potentially lethal. Chest 1993;103:1887-90.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Shebel ND, Marin A. Effort thrombosis (Paget-Schroetter syndrome) in active young adults: Current concepts in diagnosis and treatment. J Vasc Nurs 2006;24:116-26.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Khan SN, Stansby G. Current management of Paget-Schroetter syndrome in the UK. Ann R Coll Surg Engl 2004;86:29-34.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Urschel HC Jr, Patel AN. Paget-Schroetter syndrome therapy: Failure of intravenous stents. Ann Thorac Surg 2003;75:1693-6.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Vijaysadan V, Zimmerman AM, Pajaro RE. Paget-Schroetter syndrome in the young and active. J Am Board Fam Pract 2005;18:314-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Willis AA, Verma NN, Thornton SJ, Morrissey NJ, Warren RF. Upper-extremity deep-vein thrombosis after anterior shoulder dislocation and closed reduction: A case report. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2005;87:2086-90.  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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