Skip to main content

Incidence and risk factors of venous thromboembolism (VTD) in patients with amyloidosis



Coagulation problems in amyloidosis are historically associated with bleeding tendencies (mostly Factor X abnormalities). Increased clotting was observed in isolated cases diagnosed with low-grade disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Problem of venous thromboembolic disaease (VTD) in amyloidosis was not systematically investigated.


We evaluated frequency of VTD and risk factors for VTD in 56 consecutive amyloidosis patients with a documented disease evaluated and followed up at our Center from 1991–2001. Data was collected in 5 categories: (a) demographics, (b) disease and treatment, (c) thrombosis case information, (d) major risk factors for thrombosis and (e) baseline laboratory data. Univariable correlates of VTD were assessed using Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards analysis.


Mean age of the patients was 67 (years range 21 – 83). Male/female percentage ratio was 70/30. 29 % of the patients had high creatinine level (> 1.4 mg/dl). Personal or family history of VTD was recorded in 2 and 0 % of patients, respectively. Known hypercoagulable state was present in 1 patient (2%). 8 % of patients were smokers. Of 56 patients, 6 developed VTD (11%). Median time from diagnosis of amyloidosis to VTD was 12.5 month (range 1–107). Treatment was given within a median of 1 month (range 0–4) from the development of thrombosis. Only sites of VTD were lower extremities. No cases were associated with I.V. line. 1 case (17 %) was identified postoperatively. We identified several univariable correlates of VTD in amyloid patients, including greater age at diagnosis (HR-2.99, P = .041), personal history of DVT (HR-47.7, P = .006) and immobility (HR-11.78, P = .006). Presence of circulating serum M-protein had protective role in our analysis (HR-.08, P = .031). There was no correlation with the type of treatment patients were receiving.


Risk for thromboembolic diseases in patients with amyloidosis is similar to one previously described for multiple myeloma. Additional studies with higher number of thromboembolic events could help to further elucidate risk factors for VTD in this population of patients.


amyloidosis is characterized by organ deposition of fibrillar substances of different types that have a homogeneous eosinophilic appearance on light microscopy [1, 2]. The diagnosis is confirmed by demonstration of an apple-green birefringence under polarized light of specimens stained with Congo red. Primary amyloidosis (AL) should be considered in any patient who has a monoclonal protein in the serum or urine and refractory congestive heart failure, nephrotic syndrome, sensorimotor peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, orthostatic hypotension, or steatorrhea. At diagnosis, approximately one-third have nephrotic syndrome, one-fifth have carpal tunnel syndrome, one-fourth have congestive heart failure, and about 15% have peripheral neuropathy [1, 2].

Bleeding problems due to vascular deposition of amyloid resulting in vascular fragility, deficiencies of clotting factors (particularly Factor X) or enhanced fibrinolytic activity often complicate this disease [3]. Acquired deficiency of Factor X is the most common coagulation factor deficiency identified in patients with amyloidosis [4]. Thrombosis, although less common, also can occur. Some case reports described thromboembolic complications of amyloidosis [5, 6]. Association of nephrotic syndrome, well-documented complication of systemic amyloidosis, and renal vein thrombosis are well documented [7, 8]. Cardiac amyloidosis produces cases of atrial electromechanical dissociation with resulting atrial arrhythmias and formation of atrial clots [9]. Various pathogenic factors have been proposed to explain abnormal hemostasis in patients with amyloidosis. Recently, impairment of the thrombin-antithrombin pathway, in association with the low antithrombin biological activity was recognized to have possible pathogenic role in hypercoagulability of amyloidosis patients [10].

However, the problem of venous thromboembolic disease (VTD) in this disease was not systematically investigated. We evaluated the frequency of VTD and risk factors for VTD in 56 consecutive amyloidosis patients with a documented disease evaluated and followed up at our Center from 1991–2001.


We reviewed complete medical records of all patients with amyloidosis who were prospectively entered in the database. Fifty-six patients were identified. They were evaluated and followed up by staff oncologists in the Department of Hematology and Oncology, Myeloma Research Program at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the period 1991–2001.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF) is an urban tertiary referral center and a teaching hospital. Our proposal was submitted to the CCF Institutional Review Board, and we were granted approval, based on an expedited review. The requirement for obtaining informed consent was waived based on the study designs (standard medical record based review) and patient anonymity. The study did not require any third party funding.

The patients' computerized inpatient and outpatient medical records were initially reviewed by one of the co-investigators (CMG). Additional review was done independently by a second co-investigator (SG). If electronic data were incomplete, the hard copies of charts were also reviewed. When necessary, missing information was sought from referring providers. However, in a number of cases, this was unavailable.

All cases of VTD of extremities were diagnosed by Duplex ultrasound. Term immobility was used for patients who were hospitalized or bed bound for more than 7 days at the time of VTD diagnosis.

Personal history of VTD was defined as a history of documented thromboembolism prior to the diagnosis of PCD. Patients were screened for a hypercoagulable state only when they developed what appeared to be a vascular event that needed further investigation.

Data was collected in 5 categories: (a) demographics, (b) disease and treatment, (c) thrombosis case information, (d) major risk factors for thrombosis and (e) baseline laboratory data. Data were manually recorded onto researcher-developed data collection forms and subsequently entered into a computerized database.

Statistical analysis

Categorical variables are summarized as frequencies and percentages and continuous variables as the mean, standard deviation, median, and range. Time until development of a VTD was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Follow-up was calculated from the date of diagnosis to the date of either the first VTD or the date of final follow-up visit. Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to identify univariable correlates of thromboembolic event. If Cox analysis could not be done due to lack of variability, then the log-rank test was performed instead.

There were 8 possible risk factors for VTD: personal and family history of VTD, known hypercoagulable state, non-plasma cells related concomitant neoplasm's, immobility, estrogen treatment, smoking, and use of indwelling catheters at any time from initial diagnosis.

All statistical analyses were two-sided; P < 0.05 was used to indicate statistical significance. Analyses were performed using SAS® software, version 6.12.


Patients' characteristics

Data was available on 56 patients (Table 1.). 50 (89%) had primary amyloidosis (AL), 1 (2%) had kappa light chain disease, and in 5 (9%) patients type could not be identified. One patient had both AL and familial amyloidosis. 37 (66%) had confirmed cardiac involvement by biopsy or alternatively, typical findings on Echocardiogram. Confirmed (biopsy) renal involvement was found in 18 (32%) of patients. Localized amyloidosis was identified in 6 (11%) of patients. Two cases were pulmonary, 2 gastrointestinal, and one case was localized to skin and genitourinary tract, respectively. 39 (70%) were men and 17 (30%) were women. Average age was 67 years (range 21 – 83). Of the heavy chain types found in patients, 75% were IgG, 17% IgA, 1% IgM. 44/56 (78.5%) of patients did not have heavy chain M-protein in the serum.

Table 1 Clinical characteristics of amyloidosis patients at presentation (N = 56)

The light chain was lambda (λ) in 18 (32% of all patients) and kappa (κ) in 7 patients (13%). The remainder did not have identifiable light chain (31, 55%). All patients had amyloid deposits by Congo Red stain. The bone marrow biopsy results were available in 53 patients (95%) at the time of diagnosis. The median percentage of bone marrow occupied by plasma cells was 5% (range 0.0 – 50%). Serum creatinine level was elevated in 29% of all patients. Albumin was low (< 3.5 gm/dl) in 45% patients overall. Beta-2-microglobulin was high (>1.9) in the majority of patients (70%). Bone survey was negative for lytic lesions in all cases.

Out of 56 patients with amyloidosis, 1 (2%) patients had personal and no one had family history of thromboembolism. 1/56 were diagnosed with hypercoagulable state (antithrombin deficiency). Patients were treated with multiple regimens that included: steroids (36%), α-interferon (23%), vincristine (16%), liposomal doxorubicin (16%), melphalan (9%), thalidomide (2%) and rituximab (2%).

The five different drug combinations used in the treatment of amyloid patients are presented in Table 2. No patients were treated with high-dose chemotherapy with peripheral stem cell support (HDC-PSC).

Table 2 Combination chemotherapies used in the treatment of amyloidosis

Patients with VTD

Cases of thromboembolism were diagnosed by Duplex ultrasound. There was no evidence of pulmonary embolism or atrial clots in this group of patients. Of 56 patients reported in this paper 6 (11%) had one or more episodes of symptomatic, objectively documented VTD after the diagnosis of amyloidosis (Table 3). All cases were of lower extremities. The time from diagnosis to development of VTD was 12.5 months (range 1–107). Median time from last treatment to VTD event was 1 month (0–4). Out of 6 patients with VTD 17% (1 case) had a personal history of thromboembolism. No patients with VTD had a history of hypercoagulable state, smoking, or oral estrogen use. Four (67%) patients with VTD had prolonged immobility and 1 (17%) had indwelling catheter at some point during the disease. One patient (17%) developed VTD within 6 weeks from surgery.

Table 3 Clinical characteristics of amyloidosis (N = 6) patients with VTD

Univariable correlates of VTD in amyloidosis patients are presented in Table 4. A large number of factors were entered into the model including the following: gender, age at diagnosis, immunoglobulin type, personal history of VTD, hypercoagulable state, non-plasma cell related concomitant neoplasms, smoking, immobility, indwelling catheters, estrogen treatment, percentage of plasma cells in the bone marrow biopsy, creatinine level, corrected serum calcium level, serum albumin, white blood cells and platelet count, hemoglobin level, β 2-microglobulin, serum M protein level, 24 hour urine protein level, as well as individual agents and combination of chemotherapeutic agents.

Table 4 Identifying univariable correlates of VTD in amyloidosis (N-56)

Among these, personal history of VTD (HR-47.7; P = .006, CI-2.98–766), immobility (HR-11.78; P = .006, CI-2.02–68.8), absence of measurable M-protein (HR-12.5; P = .031, CI-1.25–100), and age at diagnosis (HR-2.99, P = .041, CI-1.05–8.56) were identified as univariable correlates of VTD in amyloidosis patients (Table 4.) Multivariable analysis could not be done due to low number of events.


This study shows increased incidence of VTD (11% at 10 years review) in amyloidosis patients as compared to the general population (0.1% per person/per year) [11]. This is similar to frequency of VTD found in multiple myeloma (MM) (10%) [12], and slightly higher than in patients with monoclonal gammopathy with undetermined significance (MGUS) (7.5%) [12]. Previously, only case reports of thromboembolism in patients with amyloidosis were presented in the literature [5, 6, 9, 13].

Studies presented herein have significant limitations. It is highly dependent on the quality of historical data. Absence of a potential risk factor or patient characteristics in the medical records is assumed to mean that the factor is absent. The statistical analysis is limited by the fact that several of the variables that were considered as correlates of VTD were not baseline characteristics. Ideally, these variables would be analyzed as time-dependent covariates. However, timing of these variables was not known. It is only known that they occurred before development of the event in patients with VTD or before the last follow-up among patients who did not develop VTD yet.

Results of the study presented herein point to strong correlation between some of the established risk factors for VTD (personal history and immobility) and thromboembolic events in patients with amyloidosis. Other well-known VTD risk factors (estrogen use, concomitant solid malignancies, and use of indwelling catheters) did not seem to be of importance in our patients.

Data about family history of VTD is missing in more than 10% of patients. Additionally, existing data seem to be inadequate. From available records it seems that none of the 56 patients had a family history of VTD. Although this could be due to the low number of patients a more probable explanation is poor history taking. Therefore; family history was not included in univariable analysis. Types of treatment (individual drugs or chemotherapy combinations) do not correlate with VTD. It is important to mention that none of the patients included in this study had treatment with high dose chemotherapy and stem cell support.

One of the univariable correlates of VTD identified in our group of amyloidosis patients is increased age. Risk of VTD in these patients is increasing 3 times with every 10-year increase in age. A number of studies support an association between increasing age and a higher incidence of venous thromboembolism [1416]. Patients over age 40 are at a significantly increased risk compared with younger patients [17]. Risk continues to increase with increasing age, approximately doubling with each decade after age of 40 [18].

It seems that in our amyloidosis patients, VTD age risk is in excess of that seen in general population. It does not seem that this increased risk correlates with more aggressive disease, since age was not found to be an important prognostic factor for survival in primary systemic amyloidosis in multiple studies [1921]. However, other types, such as senile with normal transthyretin (ATTR), amyloidosis associated with Alzheimer's disease (Aβ), and islet amyloid polypeptide deposits (AIAPP) are very strongly associated with both old age and the aging process.

Another significant risk factor of VTD in our patients was absence of circulating monoclonal protein. This is a characteristic for types of disease other than primary amyloidosis (AL) including secondary (AA), familial with genetically variant transthyretin (ATTR), amyloidosis associated with dialysis (Aβ2M), as well as Aβ and AIAPP forms. Again, these results point to possible increase incidence of VTD in the forms other than primary.

Human serum amyloid A (SAA) is a precursor protein in inflammation-associated secondary amyloidosis (AA). It could interfere with the coagulation process through interaction with heparin/heparan sulfate at the specific binding site (C-terminal residue 78 to 104) [22]. SAA also seems to play a role in atherogenesis, as well as in thrombus formation at the vascular injury site [23, 24]. Secondary amyloidosis (AA) is manifested in patients with underlying chronic inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease, tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, Familial Mediterranean Fever) [2527]. It is driven by different cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-1 (IL-1) [28]. IL-6 was found to promote coagulation without affecting fibrinolysis [29]. It activates coagulation cascade through tissue factor stimulation and increased transcription of factor VIII, up regulates transcription of fibrinogen, increases von Willebrand's factor, and decreases protein S [29]. Is there any correlation between SAA or any other circulating non-monoclonal protein precursors of amyloid and VTD will have to be elucidated in future studies. It is still uncertain if proposed increased incidence of thromboembolism is the result of the very process of deposition of the abnormally folded protein outside cells, consequential organ damage, or alternatively, underlying processes leading to amyloid deposits. However, it does not seem to be related to the type of treatment used in this disease. This is in accordance with our own findings in the patients with multiple myeloma and MGUS [12].


Our analysis confirmed that well-known risk factors for thromboembolism including personal history of VTD and immobilization could represent confounding factors in amyloidosis patients, too. However, additional correlates have to be considered, including type of disease and patients' age.

In our opinion, these patients need to be closely monitored for development of VTD. Standard thromboembolic prophylaxis should be used with extreme caution, considering bleeding tendency in the patients with amyloidosis.

In our opinion development of prospective studies dealing with venous thromboembolism in amyloidosis patients is of utmost importance. We will need to define pathophysiological mechanisms responsible in order to employ the most effective prophylactic measures.


  1. Gertz MA, Kyle RA: Primary systemic amyloidosis – a diagnostic primer. Mayo Clinic. 1989, Proc 64: 1505.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Kyle RA, Gertz MA: Primary systemic amyloidosis: clinical and laboratory features in 474 cases. Sem Hematol. 1995, 32: 45.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Glaspy JA: Hemostatic abnormalities in multiple myeloma and related disorders. Hem/Onc Clin North Amer. 1992, 6 (6): 1301-1315.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Greipp PR, Kyle RA, Bowie EJ: Factor-X deficiency in amyloidosis: a critical review. Am J Hematol. 1981, 11: 443-450.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Catovsky D, Ikoku NB, Pitney WR, Galton DAG: Thromboembolic Complications in Myelomatosis. Brit Med J. 1970, 3: 438-439.

    PubMed Central  Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Tinaztepe K, Buyan N, Tinaztepe B, Akkok N: The association of nephrotic syndrome and renal vein thrombosis: a clinicopathological analysis of 8 pediatric patients. Turk J Ped. 1989, 31 (1): 1-18.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Kim V, Spandorfer J: Epidemiology of venous thromboembolic disease. Emerg Med Clin N Amer. 2001, 19 (4): 839-59. 10.1016/S0733-8627(05)70221-2.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Cameron JS: Coagulation and thromboembolic complications in the nephrotic syndrome. Adv Nephr Necker Hosp. 1984, 13: 75-114.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Dubrey S, Pollak A, Skinner M, Falk RH: Atrial thrombi occuring during sinus rhythm in cardiac amyloidosis: evidence for atrial electromechanical dissociation. Br Heart J. 1995, 74: 541-544.

    PubMed Central  Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Gamba G, Montani N, Anesi E, Palladini G, Lorenzutti F, Perfetti V, Merlini G: Abnormalities in thrombin-antithrombin pathway in AL amyloidosis. amyloid. 1999, 6 (4): 273-277.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Hirsch J, Lee A: How we diagnose and treat deep vein thrombosis. Blood. 2002, 99: 3102-3110. 10.1182/blood.V99.9.3102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Srkalovic G, Camerom MG, Rybicki L, Deitcher SR, Kottke-Marchant K, Hussein MA: Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance and multiple myeloma are associated with an increased incidence of venothromboembolic disease. Cancer. 2004, 101: 558-10.1002/cncr.20405.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Baier J, Neumann H, Grossmann R, Ricken D: Primary amyloidosis and thrombophlebitis as complications of Bence-Jones plasmacytoma (lambda type). Medizinishe Klinik. 1991, 86 (1): 53-57.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Gillum RF: Pulmonary embolism and thrombophlebitis in the United States, 1970–1985. Am Heart J. 1987, 114: 1262-1264. 10.1016/0002-8703(87)90212-2.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Gjores JE: The incidence of venous thrombosis and its sequelae in certain districts in Sweden. Acta Chirurgica Scandinavica. 1987, 111 (suppl 206): 16-24.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Nicolaides AN, Irving D: Clinical factors and the risk of deep venous thrombosis. Thromboembolism Etiology, Advances in Prevention and Management. Edited by: Nicolaides AN. 1975, Baltimore: University Park press, 193-204.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Anderson FA, Wheeler HB, Goldberg RJ: A population-based perspective of the hospital incidence and case-fatality rates of deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: The Worcester DVT Study. Arch Int Med. 1991, 151: 933-938. 10.1001/archinte.151.5.933.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Anderson FA, Wheeler HB: Venous thromboembolis. Risk Factors and Prophylaxis. Clin Chest Medic. 1995, 16 (2): 235-251.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Kyle RA, Greipp PR, O'Fallon WM: Primary systemic amylodosis: multivariate analysis for prognostic factors in 168 cases. Blood. 1986, 1: 220-224.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Pardanani A, Witzig TE, Schroeder G, McElroy EA, Fonseca R, Dispenzieri A, Lacy MQ, Lust JA, Kyle RA, Greipp PR, Gertz MA, Rajkumar SV: Circulating peripheral blood plasma cells as a prognostic indicator in patients with primary systemic amyloidosis. Blood. 2003, 101: 827-830. 10.1182/blood-2002-06-1698.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Dipsenzieri A, Lacy MQ, Kyle RA, Therneau TM, Larson DR, Rajkumar SV, Fonseca R, Greipp PR, Witzig TE, Lust JA, Gertz MA: Eligibility for hematopoetic stem-cell transplantation for primary systemic amyloidosis is a favorable prognostic factor for survival. J Clin Oncol. 2001, 19 (14): 3350-3356.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Ancain JB, Kisilevsky R: The heparin/heparan sulfate-binding site on aposerum amyloid A: implicationfor the therapeutic intervention in amyloidosis. Int J Exp Clin Invest. 1999, 6: 37-47.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Meek RL, Urieli-Shoval S, Benditt EP: Expression of apolipoprotein serum amyloid A mRNA in human atherosclerotic lesions and cultured vascular cells: implication for serum amyloid A function. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1994, 91: 3186-3190.

    PubMed Central  Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Urieli-Shoval S, Linke RP, Matzner Y: Expression and function of serum amyloid A, a major acute-phase protein, in normal and disease state. Curr Opin Hematol. 2000, 7: 64-69. 10.1097/00062752-200001000-00012.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Falk RH, Comenzo RL, Skinner M: The systemic amyloidosis. NEJM. 1997, 337: 898-909. 10.1056/NEJM199709253371306.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Cohen AS: amyloidosis. Bull Rheum Dis. 1991, 40 (2): 1-12.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Grateau G: The relation between Familial Mediterranean fever and amyloidosis. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2000, 12: 61-64. 10.1097/00002281-200001000-00010.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Jensen LE, Whitehead AS: Regulation of serum amyloid A protein expression during the acute-phase response. Biochem J. 1998, 334: 489-503.

    PubMed Central  Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Kerr R: Interleukin 6 and hemostasis. Br J Haematol. 2001, 115: 3-12. 10.1046/j.1365-2141.2001.03061.x.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


Authors would like to thank Miss Marion McElhaney for valuable technical assistance.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gordan Srkalovic.

Additional information

Competing interests

The author(s) declare they have no competing interest.

Authors' contributions

GS have made significant contribution to conception and design of the study, analysis and interpretation of the data and drafting the manuscript

MGC have been involved in collection, analysis, interpretation of the data and critical revision of the manuscript

SRD have been involved in drafting and revising the manuscript

KKM have been involved in revising manuscript for important intellectual content

MAH have made significant contribution to concept and design of the study, revision of the manuscript and have given final approval of the version to be published.

All authors read and approved manuscript

Gordan Srkalovic, Marte G Cameron, Steven R Deitcher, Kandice Kattke-Marchant and Mohamad A Hussein contributed equally to this work.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Srkalovic, G., Cameron, M.G., Deitcher, S.R. et al. Incidence and risk factors of venous thromboembolism (VTD) in patients with amyloidosis. Int Semin Surg Oncol 2, 17 (2005).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Amyloidosis
  • Familial Mediterranean Fever
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Hypercoagulable State