Thrombotic storm

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Blood clots are a relatively common occurrence in the general population and are seen in approximately 1-2% of the population by age 60. Typically blood clots develop in the deep veins of the lower extremities, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or as a blood clot in the lung, pulmonary embolism (PE). A very small number of people who develop blood clots have a more serious and often life-threatening condition, known as Thrombotic Storm (TS). TS is characterized by the development of more than one blood clot in a short period of time. These clots often occur in multiple and sometimes unusual locations in the body and are often difficult to treat. TS may be associated with an existing condition or situation that predisposes a person to blood clots such as injury, infection, or pregnancy. In many cases a risk assessment will identify interventions that will prevent the formation of blood clots.


While the mechanism or pathogenesis is not completely understood mostly due to its rarity, the medical community has developed a new interest in learning more about this syndrome. Dr. Craig S. Kitchens first described TS in six case studies. In these cases he described a collection of similar features observed in six patients, suggesting this may be accounted for by a new syndrome.


Thrombotic Storm has been seen in individuals of all ages and races. The initial symptoms of TS present in a similar fashion to the symptoms experienced in deep vein thrombosis. Symptoms of a DVT may include pain, swelling and discoloration of the skin in the affected area. As with DVTs patients with TS may subsequently develop pulmonary emboli. Although the presentation of TS and DVTs are similar, TS typically progresses rapidly, with numerous clots occurring within a short period of time. After the formation of the initial clot a patient with TS typically begins a “clotting storm” with the development of multiple clots throughout the body. Rapid progression within a short period of time is often seen, affecting multiple organs systems. The location of the clot is often unusual or found in a spot in the body that is uncommon such as the dural sinus. Patients tend to respond very well to anticoagulation such as coumadin or low molecular weight heparin but may become symptomatic when treatment is withheld.

While the key clinical characteristics of thrombotic storm are still being investigated, it is believed that the clinical course is triggered by a preexisting condition, known as a hypercoagulable state. These can include such things as pregnancy, trauma or surgery. Hypercoagulable states can be an inherited or acquired risk factor that then serves as a trigger to initiate clot formation. However, in a subset of patient with TS a trigger cannot be identified. Typically people with TS will have no personal or family history of coagulations disorders.


Currently laboratory testing is not as reliable as observation when it comes to defining the parameters of Thrombotic Storm. Careful evaluation of possible thrombosis in other organ systems is pertinent in expediting treatment to prevent fatality. Preliminary diagnosis consists of evidence documented with proper imaging studies such as CT scan, MRI, or echocardiography, which demonstrate a thromboembolic occlusion in the veins and/or arteries. Vascular occlusions mentioned must include at least two of the clinic events:

In addition to the previously noted vascular occlusions, development of different thromboembolic manifestations simultaneously or within one or two weeks must occur and the patient must have an underlying inherited or acquired hypercoagulable state (other than Antiphospholipid syndrome)

Hypercoagulable states

Protein C deficiency CAPS
Protein S deficiency Autoimmune Disorder i.e. APS
Factor V Leiden Illness that causes or promote tissue necrosis
Prothrombin Mutation Malignancy
Antithrombin DeficiencyPregnancy
Thrombocytopenic Purpura


Treatment for Thrombotic Storm may include lifelong anticoagulation therapy and/or thrombolytic therapy, plasmapherisis, and corticosteroids. Studies have shown that when anticoagulant therapy is withheld recurrence of thrombosis usually follows. INR is closely monitored in the course of treatment.

Related Research Articles

Thrombosis vascular disease caused by the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system

Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When a blood vessel is injured, the body uses platelets (thrombocytes) and fibrin to form a blood clot to prevent blood loss. Even when a blood vessel is not injured, blood clots may form in the body under certain conditions. A clot, or a piece of the clot, that breaks free and begins to travel around the body is known as an embolus.

Pulmonary embolism Blockage of one or more of the arteries to the lungs typically by a blood clot which has traveled from elsewhere in the body

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage of an artery in the lungs by a substance that has moved from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream (embolism). Symptoms of a PE may include shortness of breath, chest pain particularly upon breathing in, and coughing up blood. Symptoms of a blood clot in the leg may also be present, such as a red, warm, swollen, and painful leg. Signs of a PE include low blood oxygen levels, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, and sometimes a mild fever. Severe cases can lead to passing out, abnormally low blood pressure, and sudden death.

Venous thrombosis blood clot (thrombus) that forms within a vein

A venous thrombus is a blood clot (thrombus) that forms within a vein. Thrombosis is a term for a blood clot occurring inside a blood vessel. A common type of venous thrombosis is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg. If the thrombus breaks off (embolizes) and flows towards the lungs, it can become a pulmonary embolism (PE), a blood clot in the lungs. This combination is called venous thromboembolism.

Antiphospholipid syndrome Human disease

Antiphospholipid syndrome, or antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, is an autoimmune, hypercoagulable state caused by antiphospholipid antibodies. APS provokes blood clots (thrombosis) in both arteries and veins as well as pregnancy-related complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and severe preeclampsia. The diagnostic criteria require one clinical event and two antibody blood tests spaced at least three months apart that confirm the presence of either lupus anticoagulant or anti-β2-glycoprotein-I.

Factor V Leiden is a variant of human factor V, which causes an increase in blood clotting (hypercoagulability). Due to this mutation, Protein C, an anticoagulant protein which normally inhibits the pro-clotting activity of factor V, is not able to bind normally to Factor V, leading to a hypercoagulable state, i.e., an increased tendency for the patient to form abnormal and potentially harmful blood clots. Factor V Leiden is the most common hereditary hypercoagulability disorder amongst ethnic Europeans. It is named after the Dutch city Leiden, where it was first identified in 1994 by Prof R. Bertina under the direction of Prof P. Reitsma. Despite the increased risk of VTE, people with one copy of this gene have not been found to have shorter lives than the general population.

Deep vein thrombosis Formation of a blood clot (thrombus) in a deep vein

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs or pelvis. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, redness, and enlarged veins in the affected area, but some DVTs have no symptoms. The most life-threatening concern with DVT is the potential for a clot to detach, travel through the right side of the heart, and become stuck in arteries that supply blood to the lungs. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE). Both DVT and PE are considered as part of the same overall disease process, which is called venous thromboembolism (VTE). VTE can occur as an isolated DVT or as PE with or without DVT. The most frequent long-term complication is post-thrombotic syndrome, which can cause pain, swelling, a sensation of heaviness, itching, and in severe cases, ulcers. Also, recurrent VTE occurs in about 30% of those in the 10 years following an inital VTE.

Thrombophilia abnormality of blood coagulation that increases the risk of thrombosis (blood clots in blood vessels)

Thrombophilia is an abnormality of blood coagulation that increases the risk of thrombosis. Such abnormalities can be identified in 50% of people who have an episode of thrombosis that was not provoked by other causes. A significant proportion of the population has a detectable abnormality, but most of these only develop thrombosis in the presence of an additional risk factor.

Inferior vena cava filter type of vascular filter

An inferior vena cava filter is a type of vascular filter, a medical device that is implanted by vascular surgeons or interventional radiologists into the inferior vena cava to prevent life-threatening pulmonary emboli (PEs). Their effectiveness and safety profile is well established. In cases where patients are at high risk of developing a clinically significant PE and cannot be sufficiently anticoagulated, placement of an IVC filter may be recommended.

Renal vein thrombosis

Renal vein thrombosis (RVT) is the formation of a clot in the vein that drains blood from the kidneys, ultimately leading to a reduction in the drainage of one or both kidneys and the possible migration of the clot to other parts of the body. First described by German pathologist Friedrich Daniel von Recklinghausen in 1861, RVT most commonly affects two subpopulations: newly born infants with blood clotting abnormalities or dehydration and adults with nephrotic syndrome.

May–Thurner syndrome

May–Thurner syndrome (MTS), also known as the iliac vein compression syndrome, is a condition in which compression of the common venous outflow tract of the left lower extremity may cause discomfort, swelling, pain or blood clots in the iliofemoral veins.

Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome (CAPS), also known as Asherson's syndrome, is an acute and complex biological process that leads to occlusion of small vessels of various organs. It was first described by Ronald Asherson in 1992. The syndrome exhibits thrombotic microangiopathy, multiple organ thrombosis, and in some cases tissue necrosis and is considered an extreme or catastrophic variant of the antiphospholipid syndrome.

Post-thrombotic syndrome venous insufficiency that is characterized by aching pain, heaviness, swelling, cramps, itching, or tingling in the affected limb and is a chronic complication of deep venous thrombosis

Post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS), also called postphlebitic syndrome and venous stress disorder is a medical condition that may occur as a long-term complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Phlegmasia cerulea dolens

Phlegmasia cerulea dolens is an uncommon severe form of deep venous thrombosis which results from extensive thrombotic occlusion of the major and the collateral veins of an extremity. It is characterized by sudden severe pain, swelling, cyanosis and edema of the affected limb. There is a high risk of massive pulmonary embolism, even under anticoagulation. Foot gangrene may also occur. An underlying malignancy is found in 50% of cases. Usually, it occurs in those afflicted by a life-threatening illness.

Hypercoagulability in pregnancy is the propensity of pregnant women to develop thrombosis. Pregnancy itself is a factor of hypercoagulability, as a physiologically adaptive mechanism to prevent post partum bleeding. However, when combined with an additional underlying hypercoagulable states, the risk of thrombosis or embolism may become substantial.

Embolectomy is the emergency surgical removal of emboli which are blocking blood circulation. It usually involves removal of thrombi, and is then referred to as thrombectomy. Embolectomy is an emergency procedure often as the last resort because permanent occlusion of a significant blood flow to an organ leads to necrosis. Other involved therapeutic options are anticoagulation and thrombolysis.

Superficial thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis is a thrombosis and inflammation of superficial veins which presents as a painful induration with erythema, often in a linear or branching configuration forming cords.

Prothrombin G20210A is a genetic condition that increases the risk of blood clots including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. One copy of the mutation increases the risk of a blood clot from 1 in 1,000 per year to 2.5 in 1,000. Two copies increases the risk to up to 20 in 1,000 per year. Most people never develop a blood clot in their lifetimes.

Superficial vein thrombosis

Superficial vein thrombosis (SVT) is a type blood clot in a vein, which forms in a superficial vein near the surface of the body. Usually there is thrombophlebitis, which is an inflammatory reaction around a thrombosed vein, presenting as a painful induration with redness. SVT itself has limited significance when compared to a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs deeper in the body at the deep venous system level. However, SVT can lead to serious complications, and is therefore no longer regarded as a benign condition. If the blood clot is too near the saphenofemoral junction there is a higher risk of pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening complication.

Thrombosis prevention

Thrombosis prevention or thromboprophylaxis is medical treatment to prevent the development of thrombosis in those considered at risk for developing thrombosis. Some people are at a higher risk for the formation of blood clots than others. Prevention measures or interventions are usually begun after surgery as people are at higher risk due to immobility.

Ultrasonography of deep vein thrombosis

Ultrasonography in suspected deep vein thrombosis focuses primarily on the femoral vein and the popliteal vein, because thrombi in these veins are associated with the greatest risk of harmful pulmonary embolism.