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      Symptomatic venous thromboembolism and mortality in orthopaedic surgery – an observational study of 45 968 consecutive procedures

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          Little information exists on the presentation of symptomatic venous thromboembolism (VTE) in orthopaedic surgery when a defined protocol for thromboprophylaxis is used. The objective with this study was to establish the VTE rate and mortality rate in orthopaedic surgery.


          We performed a prospective, single centre observational cohort study of 45 968 consecutive procedures in 36 388 patients over a 10 year period. Follow-up was successful in 99.3%. The primary study outcome was the incidence of symptomatic deep vein thrombosis (DVT), symptomatic pulmonary embolism (PE) and mortality at 6 weeks, specified for different surgical procedures. The secondary outcome was to describe the DVT distribution in proximal and distal veins and the proportion of VTEs diagnosed after hospital discharge. For validation purposes, a retrospective review of VTEs diagnosed 7–12 weeks postoperatively was also performed.


          In total, 514 VTEs were diagnosed (1.1%; 95% CI: 1.10-1.14), the majority (84%) after hospital discharge (432 out of 514).With thromboprophylaxis, high incidence of VTE was found after internal fixation (IF) of pelvic fracture (12%; 95% CI: 5–26), knee replacement surgery (3.7%; 95% CI: 2.8-5.0), after internal fixation (IF) of proximal tibia fracture (3.8%; 95% CI: 2.3-6.3) and after IF of ankle fracture (3.6%; 95% CI: 2.9-4.4). Without thromboprophylaxis, high incidence of VTE was found after Achilles tendon repair (7.2%; 95% CI: 5.5-9.4). In total 1094 patients deceased (2.4%; 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.33- 2.44) within 6 weeks of surgery. Highest mortality was seen after lower limb amputation (16.3%, CI: 13.8-19.1) and after hip hemiarthroplasty due to hip fracture (9.6%, CI; 7.6-12.1).


          The overall incidence of VTE is low after orthopaedic surgery but our study highlights surgical procedures after which the risk for VTE remains high and improved thromboprophylaxis is needed.

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          Most cited references 38

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          Autopsy proven pulmonary embolism in hospital patients: are we detecting enough deep vein thrombosis?

          To investigate the present status of pulmonary embolism as a cause of death in a general hospital patient population, a 5-year retrospective study of all autopsy reports and associated hospital records was undertaken. Pulmonary embolism was thought to be the cause of death in 239 of 2388 autopsies performed (10%): 15% of these patients were aged less than 60 years and 68% did not have cancer. Of these patients, 83% had deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs at autopsy, of whom only 19% had symptoms of DVT before death. Only 3% of patients who had DVT at autopsy had undergone an investigation for such before death. Twenty-four per cent of patients who died from pulmonary embolism had undergone surgery a mean of 6.9 days before. Screening tests for DVT should be applied widely in the hospital population.
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            Patient outcomes after lumbar spinal fusions.

            To determine success and complication rates for lumbar spinal fusion surgery, predictors of good outcomes, and whether fusion improves success rates of laminectomy for specific low back disorders. English-language journal articles published from 1966 through April 1991, identified through MEDLINE searching (spinal fusion plus limiting terms), bibliography review, and expert consultation. Articles were selected only if they reported at least 1 year of follow-up data enabling the classification of clinical outcomes as satisfactory or unsatisfactory for at least 30 patients. Two reviewers independently extracted data on patient characteristics, surgical methods, patient outcomes, and quality of study methods. Of 47 articles, there were no randomized trials. Four nonrandomized studies compared surgery with and without fusion for herniated disks; three found no advantage for fusion. On average, 68% of patients had a satisfactory outcome after fusion, but the range was wide (16% to 95%), and the satisfactory outcome rate was lower in prospective than in retrospective studies. The most frequently reported complications were pseudarthrosis (14%) and chronic pain at the bone graft donor site (9%). Clinical outcomes did not differ by diagnosis or fusion technique, but were worse in studies with a greater number of previously operated patients. For several low back disorders no advantage has been demonstrated for fusion over surgery without fusion, and complications of fusions are common. Randomized controlled trials are needed to compare fusion, surgery without fusion, and nonsurgical treatments in rigorously defined patient groups.
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              Prevalence of acute pulmonary embolism among patients in a general hospital and at autopsy.

              The purpose of this investigation is to estimate the prevalence of acute pulmonary embolism (PE) in a general hospital, its frequency among patients who died, and the ability of physicians to diagnose PE antemortem. The prevalence of acute PE among 51,645 patients hospitalized over a 21-month period was assessed in 1 of the 6 clinical centers (Henry Ford Hospital) that participated in the collaborative study, prospective investigation of pulmonary embolism diagnosis (PIOPED). The diagnosis of PE was made by pulmonary angiography, or in those who did not undergo pulmonary angiography because they declined or were ineligible for randomization to angiography in PIOPED, the diagnosis was based on the ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) lung scan. Based on data in PIOPED, PE was considered to be present in 87% of patients with high probability V/Q scam interpretations, 30% with intermediate probability interpretations, 14% with low probability interpretations, and 4% with nearly normal V/Q scans. The estimated prevalence of acute PE in hospitalized patients was 526 of 51,645 (1.0%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.9 to 1.1%). Based on extrapolated data from autopsy, PE was estimated to have caused or contributed to death in 122 of 51,645 (0.2%; 95% CI, 0.19 to 0.29%). Pulmonary embolism was observed at autopsy in 59 of 404 (14.6%; 95% CI, 11.3 to 18.4%). Among patients with PE at autopsy, the PE caused or contributed to death in 22 of 59 (37.3%; 95% CI, 25.0 to 50.9%) and PE was incidental in 37 of 59 (62.7%; 95% CI, 49.1 to 75.0%). Among patients at autopsy who died from PE, the diagnosis was unsuspected in 14 of 20 (70.0%; 95% CI, 45.7 to 88.1%). Most of these patients had advanced associated disease. In these patients, death from PE occurred within 2.5 h in 13 of 14 (92.9%; 95% CI, 66.1 to 99.8%). Pulmonary embolism is common in a general hospital. The prevalence of PE at autopsy has not changed over 3 decades. The frequency of unsuspected PE in patients at autopsy has not diminished. Even among patients who die from PE, the PE is usually unsuspected. Such patients, however, typically have advanced disease. Among moribund patients, incidental PE is rarely diagnosed. Patients who suffer sudden unexplained catastrophic events in the hospital are a group in whom the diagnosis might be suspected more frequently if physicians maintain a high index of suspicion.

                Author and article information

                BMC Musculoskelet Disord
                BMC Musculoskelet Disord
                BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
                BioMed Central
                4 June 2013
                : 14
                : 177
                [1 ]Section of Orthopaedics, Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
                [2 ]Section of Statistics, Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
                Copyright ©2013 Lapidus et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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