Objective.  To determine whether thrombi or vascular occlusion represent a late complication persisting several years after removal of central venous lines (CVLs) in children and adolescents treated for childhood cancer.

Methods. Children whose treatment for malignancy included placement of a CVL that had been removed at least 2 months previously were studied during scheduled follow-up that included contrast-enhanced computed tomography. Spiral volume acquisition was used to obtain 3-mm images from the chest apices through the right hilum, and three-dimensional reconstruction of angiograms was performed. Thrombosis/occlusion was defined as narrowing, obstruction, or filling defect of the deep venous system, with or without the formation of collateral veins. Charts were reviewed to document patient characteristics, previous CVL complications, administration of hyperalimentation, use of urokinase, and family history of venous thrombosis.

Results. Twenty-three patients treated for solid tumors and 2 treated for B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia or lymphoma were studied. Lines had been in place from 0.2 to 36 months (median, 7.4) and were removed at 2.3 to 121.8 months (median, 32.5) before study. Nine patients received hyperalimentation for periods ranging from 2 to 38 weeks (median, 12). Four patients had required urokinase instillations, and one developed superior vena cava syndrome; 4 had a CVL-related infection (two superficial and two Candida line infections). Occlusion was seen on computed tomography angiograms in 3 of the 25 patients (12%; 95% confidence interval: 4.5–31%). One of the patients with occlusion had superior vena cava syndrome; none had a family history of thrombosis, use of a double lumen CVL, or multiple instillations of urokinase.

Conclusions. Persistent asymptomatic vascular occlusion does occur as a late complication of CVL placement for treatment of childhood malignancies, although the frequency appears low among patients treated primarily for solid tumors. Prospective studies of large numbers of patients with a broader spectrum of diagnoses are necessary to define the incidence of and risk factors for this complication and to assess the need for prevention with anticoagulation or other therapy. Pediatricians caring for patients with a history of cancer and CVLs should be aware that these patients may have persistent vascular occlusion that could predispose them to recurrent thrombosis or postphlebitic syndrome.

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