Background Combined oral contraceptives (COCs) are associated with an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is shown to be more pronounced in women with hereditary thrombophilia. Currently, WHO recommendations state that COC-use in women with hereditary thrombophilias (antithrombin deficiency, protein C deficiency, protein S deficiency, factor V Leiden and prothrombin-G20210A mutation) is associated with an unacceptable health risk.
Objective To perform a meta-analysis evaluating the additional risk of VTE in COC-users with thrombophilia.
Methods The MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched on 10 February 2015 for potential eligible studies. A distinction was made between mild' (factor V Leiden and prothrombin-G20210A mutation) and severe' thrombophilia (antithrombin deficiency, protein C deficiency, protein S deficiency, double heterozygosity or homozygosity of factor V Leiden and prothrombin-G20210A mutation).
Results We identified 12 case-control and three cohort studies. In COC-users, mild and severe thrombophilia increased the risk of VTE almost 6-fold (rate ratio [RR], 5.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4.21-8.23) and 7-fold (RR, 7.15; 95% CI, 2.93-17.45), respectively. The cohort studies showed that absolute VTE risk was far higher in COC-users with severe thrombophilia than in those with mild thrombophilia (4.3 to 4.6 vs. 0.49 to 2.0 per 100 pill-years, respectively), and these differences in absolute risks were also noted in non-affected women (0.48 to 0.7 vs. 0.19 to 0.0), but with the caveat that absolute risks were estimated in relatives of thrombophilic patients with VTE (i.e. with a positive family history).
Conclusion These results support discouraging COC-use in women with severe hereditary thrombophilia. By contrast, additive VTE risk of mild thrombophilia is modest. When no other risk factors are present, (e.g. family history) COCs can be offered to these women when reliable alternative contraceptives are not tolerated.