Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis and treatment in patients with acute stroke and traumatic brain injury

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Patients with acute stroke and traumatic brain injury are at risk to develop venous thromboembolism. This review analyzes the available literature to propose guidelines for the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism in these groups of patients.

Recent findings

In acute ischemic stroke, low-dose low-molecular-weight heparin has the best benefit–risk ratio to prevent venous thromboembolism. Patients with primary intracerebral hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury should receive intermittent pneumatic compression, followed by low-dose low-molecular-weight heparin or unfractioned heparin 3–4 days after stroke onset or 24 h after injury or surgery, respectively, and after cessation of bleeding. Concerning treatment, in patients with deep-vein thrombosis lower doses of heparin are indicated to prevent pulmonary embolism, and a vena cava filter should be considered. In patients with pulmonary embolism, treatment could be more aggressive, because of a high mortality risk.

Summary

Adequate prevention of venous thromboembolism with intermittent pneumatic compression or pharmacological prophylaxis is important. The best treatment of venous thromboembolism remains unclear. In case of pulmonary embolism, more aggressive treatment is warranted.

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