Arterial thromboembolism: risks, realities and a rational first-line approach

Luis Fuentes V.

Journal of feline medicine and surgery 2012;14:459-470.

PRACTICAL RELEVANCE: Feline arterial thromboembolism (ATE) is a common but devastating complication of myocardial disease, often necessitating euthanasia. A combination of endothelial dysfunction and blood stasis in the left atrium leads to local platelet activation and thrombus formation. Embolisation of the thrombus results in severe ischaemia of the affected vascular bed. With the classic ‘saddle thrombus’ presentation of thrombus in the terminal aorta, the diagnosis can usually be made by physical examination. The prognosis is poor for cats with multiple limbs affected by severe ischaemia, but much better where only one limb is affected or motor function is present. PATIENT GROUP: Cats with left atrial enlargement secondary to cardiomyopathy are typically predisposed, although cats with hyperthyroidism, pulmonary neoplasia and supravalvular mitral stenosis may also be at risk. MANAGEMENT: Analgesia is the main priority, and severe pain should be managed with methadone or a fentanyl constant rate infusion. Congestive heart failure (CHF) requires treatment with furosemide, but tachypnoea due to pain can mimic signs of CHF. Thrombolytic therapy is not recommended, but antithrombotic treatment should be started as soon as possible. Aspirin and clopidogrel are well tolerated. EVIDENCE BASE: Several observational studies of ATE have been reported. No randomised, blinded, controlled studies have been reported in cats at risk, for either treatment or prevention of ATE, although such a study comparing aspirin and clopidogrel in cats is currently under way.