Acute arterial thrombosis associated with cocaine abuse

Wei Zhou, Peter H. Lin, Ruth L. Bush, Liz Nguyen, Alan B. Lumsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Purpose Cocaine-induced arterial thrombosis is uncommon, and most reported cases involved small-diameter vessels such as the cerebral and coronary arteries. This study was undertaken to review our experience with peripheral arterial thrombosis presumed caused by cocaine abuse. Methods Hospital records were reviewed for all patients admitted over 10 years with acute arterial occlusion involving the peripheral arterial system. Patients with confirmation of cocaine use or of its derivative, crack cocaine, within 24 hours of hospital admission formed the basis of this study. Symptoms at presentation, management, and outcome in these patients were reviewed. Results Three hundred eighty-two patients with acute peripheral arterial occlusion were identified during the study period. The presumptive diagnosis of cocaine-induced arterial occlusion was made in 5 patients (4 men, mean age 38 years). Cocaine use was achieved via intranasal inhalation in 2 patients (40%), whereas the 3 remaining patients smoked crack cocaine (60%). The mean time between cocaine use and onset of arterial thrombosis was 9.2 hours (range, 2-20 hours). Symptoms at presentation included acute limb ischemia without pedal Doppler signals (3 patients, 60%) and abdominal pain without femoral pulses (2 patients, 40%). Arterial occlusion was confirmed on angiograms in all patients, which revealed aortic thrombosis in 1 patient (20%), iliac thrombosis in 2 patients (40%), superficial femoral artery thrombosis in 1 patient (20%), and popliteal artery occlusion in 1 patient (20%). Surgical thrombectomy was successfully performed in 4 patients (80%), and 1 patient (20%) underwent successful thrombolytic therapy for femoropopliteal artery occlusion. There was no perioperative mortality. All 5 patients who were discharged were available for follow-up (mean, 36 months; range, 6-75 months). There was 1 late death from myocardial infarction. In 1 patient recurrent lower extremity arterial thrombosis developed after 28 months, which was successfully treated with thrombolytic therapy. Conclusions Our study underscores cocaine abuse as a potential cause of acute arterial thrombosis. Cocaine-induced arterial thrombosis should be suspected in patients with recent history of cocaine abuse with acute limb ischemia without an identifiable source or overt cardiovascular risk factors. Prompt angiography with operative or endovascular intervention should be performed to avert arterial ischemic sequelae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-295
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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