Low risk of thromboembolic complications after fast-track hip and knee arthroplasty

Henrik Husted, Kristian Stahl Otte, Billy B Kristensen, Thue Ørsnes, Christian Wong, Henrik Kehlet
Acta Orthopaedica 2010, 81 (5): 599-605

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Pharmacological prophylaxis can reduce the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), and death, and it is recommended 10–35 days after total hip arthroplasty (THA) and at least 10 days after total knee arthroplasty (TKA). However, early mobilization might also reduce the risk of DVT and thereby the need for prolonged prophylaxis, but this has not been considered in the previous literature. Here we report our results with short-duration pharmacological prophylaxis combined with early mobilization and reduced hospitalization.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: 1,977 consecutive, unselected patients were operated with primary THA, TKA, or bilateral simultaneous TKA (BSTKA) in a well-described standardized fast-track set-up from 2004–2008. Patients received DVT prophylaxis with low-molecular-weight heparin starting 6–8 h after surgery until discharge. All re-admissions and deaths within 30 and 90 days were analyzed using the national health register, concentrating especially on clinical DVT (confirmed by ultrasound and elevated D-dimer), PE, or sudden death. Numbers were correlated to days of prophylaxis (LOS).

RESULTS: The mean LOS decreased from 7.3 days in 2004 to 3.1 days in 2008. 3 deaths (0.15%) were associated with clotting episodes and overall, 11 clinical DVTs (0.56%) and 6 PEs (0.30%) were found. The vast majority of events took place within 30 days; only 1 death and 2 DVTs occurred between 30 and 90 days. During the last 2 years (854 patients), when patients were mobilized within 4 h postoperatively and the duration of DVT prophylaxis was shortest (1–4 days), the mortality was 0% (95% CI: 0–0.5). Incident cases of DVT in TKA was 0.60% (CI: 0.2–2.2), in THA it was 0.51% (CI: 0.1–1.8), and in BSTKA it was 0% (CI: 0–2.9). Incident cases of PE in TKA was 0.30% (CI: 0.1–1.7), in THA it was 0% (CI: 0–1.0), and in BSTKA it was 0% (CI: 0–2.9).

INTERPRETATION: The risk of clinical DVT, and of fatal and non-fatal PE after THA and TKA following a fast-track set-up with early mobilization, short hospitalization, and short duration of DVT prophylaxis compares favorably with published regimens with extended prophylaxis (up to 36 days) and hospitalization up to 11 days. This calls for a reconsideration of optimal duration of chemical thromboprophylaxis.

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