JOURNAL ARTICLE

Effect of age on the incidence of venous thromboembolism after major surgery

R H White, H Zhou, B F Gage
Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis: JTH 2004, 2 (8): 1327-33
15304038

BACKGROUND: Most guidelines for administration of thromboprophylaxis after major surgery use age as a major predictor of postoperative venous thromboembolism (VTE). We sought to quantify the effect of age on the risk of symptomatic VTE after a spectrum of surgical procedures.

METHODS: Using the California Patient Discharge Data Set and specific ICD-9-CM surgical procedure codes, we retrospectively determined the incidence of VTE diagnosed within 91 days after 40 different urgent or elective surgeries performed in the hospital between 1992 and 1996. Logistic regression was used to quantify the effect of age on the incidence of postoperative VTE and to adjust for other risk factors.

RESULTS: 1,464,452 cases underwent one of 40 different procedures (mean cases per procedure = 35,718, range 4500-145 500). There was a significant interaction between age and the type of surgery performed (P<0.0001). Qualitative analysis of the effect of age on the incidence of VTE stratified by the presence or absence of malignancy revealed three general patterns: a steady increase in the incidence of VTE with age, exemplified by appendectomy or cholecystectomy; an increase in VTE up to approximately age 65 with no increase thereafter, exemplified by total hip arthroplasty; and no effect of age on the incidence of VTE, exemplified by vascular surgery.

CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between age and the risk of VTE after surgery is complex and depends on the nature of the surgery and the underlying pathologic process. Advancing age was a significant predictor for VTE following surgeries performed for conditions not inherently associated with significant comorbidity. Conversely, advancing age was not associated with a higher incidence of VTE after surgeries performed for conditions strongly associated with serious underlying comorbidity, such as a malignancy or severe peripheral vascular disease.

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