Surveillance venous duplex is not clinically useful after total joint arthroplasty when effective deep venous thrombosis prophylaxis is used

Thomas H Schwarcz, Marc R Matthews, James M Hartford, Rhonda C Quick, Christopher J Kwolek, David J Minion, Eric D Endean, Robert M Mentzer
Annals of Vascular Surgery 2004, 18 (2): 193-8
The early detection of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and treatment with systemic anticoagulation to prevent pulmonary embolism (PE) are essential in the management of patients undergoing total joint arthroplasty (TJA). However, improvements in prophylactic measures have significantly decreased the occurrence of DVT in these patients. The purpose of this study was to determine whether routine postoperative duplex surveillance for DVT remains clinically useful. The medical records of all patients undergoing total knee or total hip arthroplasty between October 1997 and January 2002 at a University Hospital and its Veterans Affairs (VA) affiliate were reviewed. The type of operation and occurrence of complications (e.g., DVT, PE, and hemorrhage) were noted. All patients were treated postoperatively with both enoxaparin 30 mg b.i.d. and bilateral lower extremity sequential compression devices (SCDs). A venous duplex scan was performed prior to discharge. Three hundred ninety-eight patients underwent 441 TJAs for 149 hips and 292 knees. The average age was 65 years (range, 23-95). Venous duplex scans were performed within 1 week (median, 4 days) of operation. Initial inpatient scans revealed acute, ipsilateral DVT in five patients (1.3%). Three patients experienced documented PE-one as an inpatient and two after hospital discharge; both outpatients had negative inhospital duplex scans. One of the 398 patients did not have a duplex scan as an inpatient and returned 6 weeks later with a popliteal DVT. Complications included one upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage, and one patient died postoperatively of unknown causes. These data demonstrate that routine postoperative venous duplex scans rarely found DVT (5 of 398 patients) after TJA when effective prophylaxis was used. Furthermore, surveillance scanning did not enable reliable prediction of PE. Therefore, we conclude that postoperative inpatient surveillance duplex scans for DVT provide very minimal benefit and that a routine screening program is not clinically useful for patients managed with effective DVT prophylaxis.

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