COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

A meta-analysis of thromboembolic prophylaxis following elective total hip arthroplasty

K B Freedman, K R Brookenthal, R H Fitzgerald, S Williams, J H Lonner
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2000, 82-A (7): 929-38
10901307

BACKGROUND: Although several agents have been shown to reduce the risk of thromboembolic disease, there is no clear preference for thromboembolic prophylaxis in elective total hip arthroplasty. The purpose of this study was to define the efficacy and safety of the agents that are currently used for prophylaxis against deep venous thrombosis -- namely, low-molecular-weight heparin, warfarin, aspirin, low-dose heparin, and pneumatic compression.

METHODS: A Medline search identified all randomized, controlled trials, published from January 1966 to May 1998, that compared the use of one of the prophylactic agents with the use of any other agent or a placebo in patients undergoing elective total hip arthroplasty. For a study to be included in our analysis, bilateral venography had to have been performed to confirm the presence or absence of deep venous thrombosis. Fifty-two studies, in which 10,929 patients had been enrolled, met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. The rates of distal, proximal, and total (distal and proximal) deep venous thrombosis; symptomatic and fatal pulmonary embolism; minor and major wound-bleeding complications; major non-wound bleeding complications; and total mortality were determined for each agent in each study. The absolute risk of each outcome was determined by dividing the number of events by the number of patients at risk. A general linear model with random effects was used to calculate the 95 percent confidence interval of risk. A crosstabs of study by outcome was performed to test homogeneity (ability to combine studies). The risk of each outcome was compared among agents and between each agent and the placebo.

RESULTS: With prophylaxis, the risk of total (proximal and distal) deep venous thrombosis ranged from 17.7 percent (low-molecular-weight heparin) to 31.1 percent (low-dose heparin); the risk with prophylaxis with any agent was significantly lower than the risk with the placebo (48.5 percent) (p < 0.0001). The risk of proximal deep venous thrombosis was lowest with warfarin (6.3 percent) and low-molecular-weight heparin (7.7 percent), and again the risk with any prophylactic agent was significantly lower than the risk with the placebo (25.8 percent) (p < 0.0001). Compared with the risk with the placebo (1.51 percent), only warfarin (0.16 percent), pneumatic compression (0.26 percent), and low-molecular-weight heparin (0.36 percent) were associated with a significantly lower risk of symptomatic pulmonary embolism. There were no significant differences among agents with regard to the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism or of mortality with any cause. The risk of minor wound-bleeding was significantly higher with low-molecular-weight heparin (8.9 percent) and low-dose heparin (7.6 percent) than it was with the placebo (2.2 percent) (p < 0.05). Compared with the risk with the placebo (0.28 percent), only low-dose heparin was associated with a significantly higher risk of major wound-bleeding (2.56 percent) and total major bleeding (3.46 percent) (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: The best prophylactic agent in terms of both efficacy and safety was warfarin, followed by pneumatic compression, and the least effective and safe was low-dose heparin. Warfarin provided the lowest risk of both proximal deep venous thrombosis and symptomatic pulmonary embolism. However, there were no identifiable significant differences in the rates of fatal pulmonary embolism or death among the agents. Significant risks of minor and major bleeding complications were observed with greater frequency with certain prophylactic agents, particularly low-molecular-weight heparin (minor bleeding) and low-dose heparin (both major and minor bleeding).

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