A new study from researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has shown a link between obesity and the formation of blood clots in children’s and adolescents’ veins.
Medical experts have already established that obesity is a risk factor for venous thromboembolism (VTE) in adults, but prior studies in pediatric populations showed mixed results. The Wake Forest report, however, discovered that obesity as related to BMI was a significant predictor of the formation of blood clots in young people. The research is published in the journal Hospital Pediatrics.
“This is important because the incidence of pediatric VTE has increased dramatically over the last 20 years and childhood obesity remains highly prevalent in the United States,” said the study’s lead author, Elizabeth Halvorson, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist.
The researchers conducted a review of patients at Wake Forest Baptist’s Brenner Children’s Hospital between January 2000 and September 2012. They found 88 patients ages two to 18 with confirmed cases of VTE. Of these patients, 37.5% were obese, but a majority had other risk factors for blood clots in addition to obesity.
“Our study presents data from a single institution with a relatively small sample size,” Halvorson said. “But it does demonstrate an association between obesity and VTE in children, which should be explored further in larger future studies.”
After adjusting the data to include other risk factors, the authors found that a small but statistically important link between obesity and VTE can lead to acute and chronic health effects if not treated, writes Science World Report’s Kathleen Lees.
A study much like Halvorson’s, conducted in 2014, established a connection between obesity and VTE in a group of youngsters who were hospitalized and who displayed a risk for VTE because of obesity in the same way risks are described in larger adult cohorts.
Will Chu, reporting for Food Navigator, writes that in Western Europe and the US, childhood obesity is a significant health dilemma. One study calculated that the risk that comes with a child being obese is as much as twice that of kids who are a healthy weight.
The loss of extra body weight can reduce the concentrations of coagulation factors and push plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 to a standard range.
Although the incidence of VTE is lower in young people than it is in adults, the morbidity levels that are associated with it are clinically significant, according to Dr. Scott C. Howard in an article for Medscape.
When VTE affects adolescents, activity restrictions must be carefully defined. And when a child is taking an oral anticoagulant, parents will need to review the vitamin K content of foods with the entire family.
Also, children will be required to wear compression stockings that must fit properly and be used every day. The stockings prevent post-thrombotic syndrome, and the necessity for wearing them has to be emphasized and monitored by the child’s parents. Once the venous thrombosis occurs, recurrence must be avoided by eliminating existing risk factors.
To eliminate risks, patients should receive education concerning weight loss, avoiding oral contraceptives, avoiding smoking, and avoiding pregnancy. Dr. Howard emphasizes that the risks associated with thromboembolism in children are severe.