Prevention of venous thromboembolic disease following primary total knee arthroplasty. A randomized, multicenter, open-label, parallel-group comparison of enoxaparin and warfarin

R H Fitzgerald, T E Spiro, A A Trowbridge, G A Gardiner, T L Whitsett, M B O'Connell, J A Ohar, T R Young
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2001, 83-A (6): 900-6

BACKGROUND: Patients treated with total knee arthroplasty are at high risk for the development of venous thromboembolism postoperatively. This study compared the efficacy and safety of two common thromboprophylactic agents, enoxaparin (a low-molecular-weight heparin) and warfarin.

METHODS: Three hundred and forty-nine patients were included in a prospective, randomized, multicenter, open-label, parallel-group clinical trial. Treatment with enoxaparin (30 mg, administered subcutaneously twice daily) or warfarin (adjusted to an international normalized ratio of 2 to 3) was initiated during the immediate postoperative period, within eight hours after the surgery, and was continued for four to fourteen days. Venous thromboembolism was defined as deep-vein thrombosis documented by contrast venography, symptomatic deep-vein thrombosis documented by lower-extremity ultrasonography, or symptomatic pulmonary embolism confirmed by a positive lung scan or pulmonary angiography.

RESULTS: In the all-treated-patients group, eighty (45%) of the 176 warfarin-treated patients had venous thromboembolism: fifty-nine (34%) had distal deep-vein thrombosis; twenty (11%), proximal deep-vein thrombosis; and one (0.6%), pulmonary embolism. Venous thromboembolism developed in significantly fewer (p = 0.0001) enoxaparin-treated patients (forty-four of 173; 25%): forty-one (24%) had distal deep-vein thrombosis, three (2%) had proximal deep-vein thrombosis, and none had pulmonary embolism. The enoxaparin-treated patients also had a significantly lower prevalence of proximal deep-vein thrombosis (p = 0.002). The estimated odds for the development of venous thromboembolism were 2.52 times greater (95% confidence interval, 2.00 to 3.19) with warfarin than they were with enoxaparin. Major hemorrhage occurred in four warfarin-treated patients and nine enoxaparin-treated patients; with the numbers available, this difference was not significant (p = 0.17). Clinically important operative-site hemorrhage occurred in six (3%) of the warfarin-treated patients and twelve (7%) of the enoxaparin-treated patients (p = 0.15).

CONCLUSIONS: A fixed 30-mg subcutaneous dose of enoxaparin, administered twice daily, with the first dose administered within eight hours after the completion of surgery, was significantly more effective than adjusted-dose warfarin in reducing the occurrence of asymptomatic venous thromboembolism, including proximal deep-vein thrombosis, in patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty. With the numbers available, there was no significant difference between groups with regard to the occurrence of major hemorrhagic complications; however, the rate of overall hemorrhagic complications was higher in the enoxaparin group.

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