Michael Meghpara, James J. Purtill, Paul Tornetta.
Response/Recommendation: The management for each patient requiring emergent surgery in the face of an active deep venous thrombosis/pulmonary embolism (DVT/PE) must be individualized based on the extent of the DVT/PE, physiologic parameters of the patient, the risk of bleeding during and after surgery.
Strength of Recommendation: Limited.
Rationale: Acute or active venous thromboembolism (VTE) in the form of DVT or PE may be present in a patient undergoing surgical procedure. If the surgical intervention is not time-sensitive, then it should be delayed for as long as possible until the DVT/PE is treated and/or resolved. When a patient undergoing elective surgery develops VTE prior to surgery, due to a recurrence rate of nearly 40% within the first 4 weeks, surgery should be delayed at least one month1. The longer surgery can be delayed, the lower the risk for VTE recurrence2–4. However, the surgical intervention may be time-sensitive and/or emergent. For example, patients with hip fractures have optimal outcomes and decreased morbidity and mortality when operative intervention is delivered within the first 24 – 48 hours5–8. Patients with hip fracture are known to have an incidence of DVT ranging from 9 to 13% preoperatively9. So, it may be necessary to surgically treat the hip fracture in the face of an active/acute DVT/PE in hip fracture patient population. Another group of patients with time-sensitive surgical issues are those with open fractures and orthopedic infections. Interestingly, fractures and infections both trigger an inflammatory cascade which may make patients prone to developing DVT10,11. While no formal cutoff exists, studies have often utilized 21 days from the onset of symptoms to define acute VTE12. When VTE occurs prior to surgical intervention, the need for anticoagulation or other intervention to treat the VTE and to avoid further associated morbidity must be incorporated into the perioperative orthopaedic management.
Sixty percent of DVT occur in the proximal venous system and 40% occur distally13. Distal DVT that occur in the gastrocnemius or soleal veins have a low probability of propagating proximally or developing into a PE14,15. The evidence on whether to treat a distal DVT varies16 and the use of anticoagulants for isolated distal DVTs in otherwise low-risk patients may not be superior to either a placebo or non-treatment17–19. With no treatment, close observation with ultrasound at two weeks is suggested20. Proximal DVT, however, have a higher association with PE, and should be addressed preoperatively21–23. For a patient with a PE, complications such as right ventricular strain, cardiac arrest, or heart failure may occur with mortality rates up to 40%24–26. If the patient is hemodynamically unstable, immediate interventions such as thrombolysis or embolectomy should be considered; however, if stable, echocardiography should be performed to determine the level of right ventricular dysfunction27.
In patients with acute VTE requiring non-elective surgery, various agents can be utilized to achieve therapeutic anticoagulation to prevent further clot development. Warfarin and newer direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOAC) have limited utility. Warfarin anticoagulation would need to be bridged with heparin peri-operatively while DOAC have limited anticoagulation reversal options. Treatment with unfractionated heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) may be more useful for patients with acute VTE requiring non-elective surgery28. In the setting of an acute or active DVT or PE, stopping unfractionated heparin or LMWH treatment for a period of time for a patient to undergo surgery is feasible and carries low risk29,30. To limit undesirable anticoagulant effects intraoperatively, LMWH should be held for 24 hours or reduced by 50% the evening prior to surgery28 while unfractionated heparin should be discontinued 4-6 hours prior to procedure31. All patients should receive mechanical prophylaxis prior to and during surgery which can decrease the risk of VTE by up to 60%3,32. However, mechanical compression should be avoided in a limb with a DVT due to the potential risk of embolizing a clot33. Postoperatively, patients are at increased risk of bleeding, and anticoagulation is often restarted once post-procedural hemostasis is ensured. Data related to the optimal start time of prophylaxis is limited28. Based on the findings of the PROSPECT trial, a multicenter prospective study of 260 patients, restarting enoxaparin 12-24 hours postoperatively resulted in bleeding in 20% of patients undergoing major surgery34. Patients may be bridged with unfractionated heparin or LMWH to warfarin or DOAC, beginning 24 to 72 hours after major surgery and 18 – 14 hours after minor surgery28,35–38.
Use of an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter should be considered when a patient has contraindications to anticoagulation or a history of recurrent VTE on prophylaxis3. Although controversial, the utilization of IVC filters has increased over the years, especially with the advent of percutaneous insertion39,40. IVC filters in high-risk patients with an acute proximal DVT have been shown to initially prevent acute PE41 and can capture a thrombus in up to 13% of patients postoperatively42. Although rare, complications associated with IVC filters increase after 30 days and include filter migration, fracture, vena cava perforation, and vena cava occlusion43–45.
If immediate intervention is required in an unstable patient with cardiac strain, the benefits associated with more invasive options such as thrombolysis or embolectomy may outweigh the risks to a surgical patient23,46,47. Systemic thrombolysis may significantly increase the risk of bleeding, however, thrombolysis may prevent further hemodynamic decompensation from VTE48–50. While no specific studies exist about performing thrombolysis in orthopedic patients, a few studies51–53 show the safety of thrombolysis in post-surgical patients with one report suggesting the use of a thigh tourniquet to prevent surgical site hemorrhage until the thrombolytic agent was no longer active54. Another option in patients with PE is catheter-directed thrombolysis which has demonstrated effectiveness in improving right ventricular strain and pulmonary artery pressure with no risk of major bleeding55–57.
The management of acute DVT or PE prior to an emergent orthopaedic procedure varies based on individual patient factors with peri-operative implications of each clinical scenario since there is limited high-level evidence to support definitive general recommendations.
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