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Life-Threatening Leg Clots Run in Families, Study Shows
Date:8/8/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- People who have two or more siblings who have suffered blood clots in deep veins such as those in the legs and pelvis -- a disease known as venous thromboembolism (VTE) -- have a relative risk 50 times higher for developing such clots themselves, Swedish researchers report.

Individuals with only one sibling with VTE are two times as likely to suffer the dangerous blood clots.

This is the first study in a large population to show that the risk for VTE runs in families, the researchers say. VTE causes blood clots called deep vein thrombosis, which, if they break loose, can travel to the heart, lungs or brain and, if untreated, tend to be fatal.

"We found genetic factors are important in the risk for VTE," said lead researcher Dr. Bengt Zoller, an associate professor, at the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University in Malmo.

"A sibling history of VTE is an important risk factor for VTE," he said. However, Zoller pointed out that most people who develop a VTE don't have a family history of the condition.

While the relative risk is very high, the absolute risk is much lower. In the general population, the absolute risk for VTE is 3 in 10,000 each year and for those whose family history puts them at high risk it is 15 in 10,000, each year, Zoller said.

The report is published in the Aug. 8 online edition and the Aug. 30 print issue of Circulation.

For the study, Zoller's team collected data on 45,362 people who were hospitalized with VTE. Among these people, 2,393 had a brother or sister who also had a history of the condition.

The researchers found that for those aged 10 to 19 years, there was a five times greater risk of VTE if they had a sibling who had had a VTE, compared with those who didn't have this family history. For older patients, those 60 to 69, the risk was twice as high.

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