European guidelines on perioperative venous thromboembolism prophylaxis: Surgery in the elderly

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The risk for postoperative venous thromboembolism (VTE) is increased in patients aged more than 70 years and in elderly patients presenting with co-morbidities, for example cardiovascular disorders, malignancy or renal insufficiency. Therefore, risk stratification, correction of modifiable risks and sustained perioperative thromboprophylaxis are essential in this patient population. Timing and dosing of pharmacoprophylaxis may be adopted from the non-aged population. Direct oral anti-coagulants are effective and well tolerated in the elderly; statins may not replace pharmacological thromboprophylaxis. Early mobilisation and use of non-pharmacological means of thromboprophylaxis should be exploited. In elderly patients, we suggest identification of co-morbidities increasing the risk for VTE (e.g. congestive heart failure, pulmonary circulation disorder, renal failure, lymphoma, metastatic cancer, obesity, arthritis, post-menopausal oestrogen therapy) and correction if present (e.g. anaemia, coagulopathy) (Grade 2C). We suggest against bilateral knee replacement in elderly and frail patients (Grade 2C). We suggest timing and dosing of pharmacological VTE prophylaxis as in the non-aged population (Grade 2C). In elderly patients with renal failure, low-dose unfractionated heparin (UFH) may be used or weight-adjusted dosing of low molecular weight heparin (Grade 2C). In the elderly, we recommend careful prescription of postoperative VTE prophylaxis and early postoperative mobilisation (Grade 1C). We recommend multi-faceted interventions for VTE prophylaxis in elderly and frail patients, including pneumatic compression devices, low molecular weight heparin (and/or direct oral anti-coagulants after knee or hip replacement) (Grade 1C).

This article is part of the European guidelines on perioperative venous thromboembolism prophylaxis. For details concerning background, methods, and members of the ESA VTE Guidelines Task Force, please, refer to:

Samama CM, Afshari A, for the ESA VTE Guidelines Task Force. European guidelines on perioperative venous thromboembolism prophylaxis. Eur J Anaesthesiol 2018; 35:73–76.

A synopsis of all recommendations can be found in the following accompanying article: Afshari A, Ageno W, Ahmed A, et al., for the ESA VTE Guidelines Task Force. European Guidelines on perioperative venous thromboembolism prophylaxis. Executive summary. Eur J Anaesthesiol 2018; 35:77–83.

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