Thromboprophylaxis in Spinal Surgery

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Study Design.

Systematic review and meta-analysis.


Determine the incidence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) in spinal surgery patients receiving no thromboprophylaxis, mechanoprophylaxis, and chemoprophylaxis.

Summary of Background Data.

The incidence of thromboembolic complications after spinal surgery is not well established. Although a variety of effective mechanical and chemical thromboprophylaxis interventions exist, their role in spinal surgery remains unclear. Spine surgeons are faced with the difficult decision of balancing the risk of death from a thromboembolic complication against the risk of permanent neurological damage from an epidural hematoma (EDH).


The Medline database was queried using combinations of the terms related to the aforementioned subject matter. Articles meeting our predetermined inclusion criteria were reviewed and relevant data extracted. Meta-analyses were created using a random-effects model for incidence of DVT and PE by type of thromboprophylaxis, method of screening, and study type.


Twenty-eight articles were included in the final analyses. The higher mean incidence of DVT and PE in the mechanoprophylaxis group (DVT: 1%, PE: 0.81%) compared to the chemoprophylaxis group (DVT: 0.85%, PE: 0.58%) was not observed to be statistically significant. Six percent of PEs was fatal; the rate of EDHs was 0.3%. The incidence of DVT was higher in prospective studies (1.4%) compared to retrospective studies (0.61%); the incidence of DVT was not affected by whether the study screened only symptomatic patients.


Although the incidence of DVT and PE was relatively low regardless of prophylaxis type, the true incidence is difficult to determine given the heterogeneous nature of the small number of studies available in the literature. Our findings suggest there may be a role for chemoprophylaxis given the relatively high rate of fatal PE. Future studies are needed to determine which patient population would benefit most from chemoprophylaxis.


Level of Evidence: 2

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