Neuraxial Anesthesia in Obstetric Patients Receiving Thromboprophylaxis With Unfractionated or Low-Molecular-Weight Heparin: A Systematic Review of Spinal Epidural Hematoma

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Venous thromboembolism remains a major source of morbidity and mortality in obstetrics with an incidence of 29.8/100,000 vaginal delivery hospitalizations; cesarean delivery confers a 4-fold increased risk of thromboembolism when compared with vaginal delivery. Revised national guidelines now stipulate that the majority of women delivering via cesarean and women at risk for ante- or postpartum venous thromboembolism receive mechanical or pharmacological thromboprophylaxis. This practice change has important implications for obstetric anesthesiologists concerned about the risk of spinal epidural hematoma (SEH) among anticoagulated women receiving neuraxial anesthesia. We conducted a systematic review of published English language studies (1952–2016) and of the US Anesthesia Closed Claims Project Database (1990–2013) to identify cases of SEH associated with neuraxial anesthesia and thromboprophylaxis. We also report on SEH in obstetric patients receiving thromboprophylaxis and neuraxial anesthesia without adherence to the American Society of Regional Anesthesia (ASRA) recommendations. In our review, we initially identified 736 publications of which 10 met inclusion criteria; these were combined with the 5 cases of SEH identified in 546 obstetric Anesthesia Closed Claims reviews. None of these publications revealed SEH associated with neuraxial anesthesia and thromboprophylaxis with unfractionated heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin in obstetric patients. Based on data from 6 reports, 28 parturients had their neuraxial blockade before the minimum ASRA recommended time interval between the last anticoagulant dose and the neuraxial procedure. Based on data from 2 reports, 52 parturients received neuraxial anesthesia without their low-molecular-weight heparin dose being discontinued during the intrapartum period. Although the very low level of evidence and high heterogeneity in these reports make it difficult to draw quantitative conclusions from this systematic review, it is encouraging that this comprehensive search did not identify a single case of SEH in an obstetric patient receiving thromboprophylaxis and neuraxial anesthesia. Analysis of large-scale registries (eg, the Anesthesia Incident Reporting System of the Anesthesia Quality Institute) with more granular clinical and pharmacological data is needed to assess the impact of these practice changes on obstetric SEH incidence. In the interim, optimal care of obstetric patients depends on multidisciplinary planning of anticoagulation dosing to facilitate neuraxial anesthesia and thoughtful weighing of the relative risks and benefits of providing versus withholding neuraxial in favor of general anesthesia.

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