Deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in trauma patients: an overstatement of the problem?

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The American surgeon


Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) affect high-risk trauma patients (HRTP). Accurate incidence and clinical importance of DVT and PE in HRPT may be overstated. We performed a ten-year retrospective analysis of HRTP of the Pennsylvania Trauma Outcome Study. High-risk factors (HRF) included pelvic fracture (PFx), lower extremity fracture (LEFx), severe head injury (CHI) (AIS - head > or =3), and spinal cord injury. HRF alone or in combination, age, Injury Severity Score (ISS), and Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) were examined for association with DVT/PE. A total of 73,419 HRTP were included: 1377 (1.9%) had DVT, 365 (0.5%) had PE. The incidence of DVT in level I trauma centers was 2.2 per cent and was 1.5 per cent in level II centers. The lowest incidence of DVT was 1.3 per cent for isolated LEFx; highest was 5.4% for combined PFx, LEFx, and CHI. Variables associated with DVT included age, ISS, and GCS (all P < 0.001). In logistic regression analysis, only ISS was consistently predictive for DVT and PE. Though increased during the past decade, the overall incidence of DVT in HRTP remains below 3 per cent. Only the combination of multiple injuries or an ISS >30 result in DVT incidence of > or =5 per cent. We believe that current guidelines for screening for DVT may need to be reevaluated.

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