Long-term follow-up of trauma patients with a vena caval filter.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is an important complication in blunt trauma patients. At our Level I trauma center, we had a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) rate of 3.2% from 1993 to 1997 despite an aggressive VTE prophylaxis program. During this time period, we placed vena caval filters (VCF) for both traditional and prophylactic indications. This project was developed to establish a VCF registry for trauma patients to determine the long-term complications of VCF placement.

METHODS

A letter was sent to all trauma patients who had a VCF placed from 1993 through 1997. Patients were asked to return for a history and physical examination to detect signs and symptoms related to VTE, a duplex ultrasound of the inferior vena cava, and a plain abdominal radiograph to determine filter migration.

RESULTS

There were 191 VCFs inserted in our trauma population from 1993 to 1997. There were 105 patients (75 male and 30 female) available for evaluation, with a mean follow-up of 28.9 months. Forty-one VCFs were placed in patients with DVT or pulmonary embolism, and 64 were placed in patients for prophylactic indications as per the guidelines developed by the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma. There were no clinically identifiable complications related to insertion of the VCF. There were no pulmonary embolisms detected after VCF insertion. In follow-up, only one filter (0.95%) migrated, and this was minimal (1 cm cephalad). One (0.95%) vena cava was occluded, based on duplex ultrasonography, and 11 patients (10.4%) had signs or symptoms of leg swelling after hospital discharge. Twenty eight (44%) of the 64 patients with prophylactic VCFs developed a DVT after filter placement.

CONCLUSION

VCFs placed in trauma patients have acceptable short- and long-term complication rates. Consideration should be given to prophylactic VCF placement in patients at high risk for VTE. Randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate whether VCF insertion increases the risk for subsequent DVT.

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