Etiology, incidence, and prevention of deep vein thrombosis in acute spinal cord injury

G J Merli, S Crabbe, R G Paluzzi, D Fritz
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1993, 74 (11): 1199-205
This article provides a critical review of the literature on the etiology, incidence, and prevention of deep-vein thrombosis in acute spinal cord injured patients. Stasis and hypercoagulability are the two major factors contributing to the development of thrombosis in this patient population. This has been supported by studies that demonstrate an impaired venous return from the lower extremities and abnormal coagulation factors, which predispose to thrombogenesis. The incidence of deep vein thrombosis secondary to the above etiologies varies from 49% to 100% in the first 12 weeks with the first 2 weeks having the highest rate following acute injury. This high rate of complication has led to numerous studies to identify the most effective regimens of prophylaxis. Studies using noninvasive testing and venography in acute spinal cord injury have supported two approaches for preventing deep-vein thrombosis. Single agent pharmacologic therapy with adjusted dose heparin is effective but does carry some risk of bleeding. Combination therapy with external pneumatic compression sleeves plus either aspirin/dipyridamole or low-dose heparin and electrical stimulation plus low-dose heparin have significantly reduced the incidence of deep vein thrombosis. The duration of prophylaxis with the above modalities has varied between 8 and 12 weeks following acute injury. Further large scale studies are required in this high-risk population to better delineate the incidence of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, to identify the best modalities, and to define the duration of treatment for the prevention of these complications.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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