Enoxaparin treatment in high-risk trauma patients limits the utility of surveillance venous duplex scanning

T H Schwarcz, R C Quick, D J Minion, P A Kearney, C J Kwolek, E D Endean
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2001, 34 (3): 447-52

OBJECTIVE: The value of surveillance venous duplex scanning for detecting unsuspected deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in trauma patients who are receiving enoxaparin prophylaxis is open to question. This study was undertaken to determine whether enoxaparin reduced the clinical utility of surveillance scanning and whether management of these patients was altered by findings of the scans.

METHODS: The medical records of trauma patients who met defined criteria for high DVT risk, admitted during 30 consecutive months, were reviewed. These patients received enoxaparin 30 mg every 12 hours for the duration of their admissions. Per protocol, surveillance lower extremity venous duplex scans were performed within 72 hours of enoxaparin administration and then weekly until patients were discharged from the hospital. The records were reviewed for thromboembolic events (DVT or pulmonary embolism [PE]), patient location and ambulatory status, therapeutic interventions (systemic anticoagulation, vena cava filter), and complications of enoxaparin therapy.

RESULTS: A total 241 patients underwent 513 venous duplex examinations (1-13 per patient). Eight patients had DVT on the initial scan; seven of these patients were asymptomatic. Five were treated with anticoagulation and/or vena cava filter placement. Of the 233 patients with initially negative duplex scan results, five patients (2%) developed clinically unsuspected lower extremity DVT while hospitalized. All of these five patients were in an intensive care unit. Three of the five patients had no change in treatment. Two of the five underwent anticoagulation, and one vena cava filter was placed. PE occurred in two hospitalized patients, one of whom was ambulatory, with negative duplex scan results. After hospital discharge, six other patients had symptomatic DVT or PE despite in-hospital scans with negative results. Complications associated with enoxaparin included hemorrhage (2) and thrombocytopenia (8).

CONCLUSIONS: After initial negative scan results, repeat surveillance duplex scanning during hospitalization detected a low incidence (2%) of DVT in high-risk patients. Furthermore, the detection of unsuspected DVT altered the clinical management of less than 1% of the patients tested. Thus, after a venous duplex scan with negative results and initiation of enoxaparin prophylaxis, subsequent surveillance duplex examinations are not warranted in asymptomatic trauma patients.

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