63 – Does the duration of surgery influence the incidence of postoperative VTE?

63 – Does the duration of surgery influence the incidence of postoperative VTE?

Emanuele Chisari, Graham S. Goh, Javad Parvizi.

Response/Recommendation: Surgical duration is directly associated with an increased risk of venous thrombosis (VTE).  When intraoperative complications or surgical complexity affect the length of surgery, VTE risk should be reevaluated.

Strength of Recommendation: Moderate.

Rationale: Understanding the relationship between VTE risk and surgical duration is important for surgical planning and management.  Risk stratification could help refine chemoprophylaxis strategies for surgeons, perioperative care physicians, and anesthesiologists, and better inform patients of the potential hazards associated with prolonged surgery.

Multiple studies in general1–3, plastic4,5, vascular6, gynecological7, and neurosurgical8 literature have found an increased risk of VTE with longer operative time.  This association has been shown even in patients undergoing outpatient procedures9.  In the context of orthopaedic surgery, conflicting evidence has been reported.  While the majority of studies have identified increased operative time as a risk factor for VTE10–17, some studies did not18–23.  It is also possible that this risk may not apply to all orthopaedic procedures24,25.  In a systematic review of Level-I and Level-II studies, Zhang et al., concluded that surgery time >2 hours increased the risk of VTE14.  A separate systematic review of randomized control trials also found that the incidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in patients undergoing elective total knee arthroplasty (TKA) declined with the average duration of surgery (124.3 minutes in 1996 to 97.3 minutes in 2003)26.  Using routine venography to assess for DVT on the third to ninth postoperative day, Zhang et al., found that 173 of 963 patients with a venography-confirmed DVT had a greater operative duration compared to those who did not13.  This association has also been reported in the Asian population15,27.  Won et al., found that the relative risk was 1.6 times higher in the group with ≥105-minute surgery time compared to those with <105-minute surgery time16.  Using a national database in Japan, Nagase et al., found that patients who underwent a longer period of anesthesia (≥180 minutes) had more than twice the risk (odds ratio [OR] 2.13) of postoperative pulmonary embolism (PE) compared to patients with a shorter period of anesthesia (<180 minutes)28.  Consistent with these findings, Jaffar et al., analyzed institutional data of 4,075 postmenopausal women undergoing primary major joint replacement and found that a threshold of 3.5 hours (210 minutes) increased the odds of VTE substantially (OR 3.83)17.  This relationship was shown after controlling for multiple confounders and persisted even when patients with distal DVT were excluded.

In spite of the abundant literature on the topic, few studies were sufficiently powered or utilized multi-institutional data.  To overcome these shortcomings, Kim et al., performed a comprehensive analysis across surgical specialties and institutions using a generalizable database29.  Using the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database from 2005 to 2011, the authors studied 1’432,855 patients who underwent surgery under general anaesthesia across 9 surgical disciplines, performing the analysis at the specialty and procedural level while adjusting for differing surgical and patient complexity.  Compared with a procedure of average duration, patients who underwent the longest procedures experienced a 1.27-fold increase in the odds of developing a VTE, whereas the shortest procedures demonstrated an OR of 0.86.  Importantly, the incidence of VTE increased with increasing quintiles of surgical duration in all 9 surgical specialties in the subgroup analyses.

Despite the broad consensus on the association between VTE risk and operative time, an exact cutoff time that significantly increased the risk of this complication could not be identified.  While some studies examined a threshold of 120 minutes or more9,27, different cutoffs such as 80 mins11, 105 mins16, 180 mins28, and even up to 3.5 hours17 have been identified.  Due to the heterogeneity in procedure type, anaesthesia techniques, follow-up duration, and method for calculating operative time, a precise cutoff would be extremely difficult to ascertain.

The explanation for the relationship between surgical duration and VTE risk is likely multifactorial.  In accordance with the pathophysiologic basis of VTE (also known as “Virchow’s triad”30(p198)), immobility resulting from long surgical procedures can result in blood stasis, hypercoagulability, and endothelial damage caused by vessel wall distension17,31–34, thus increasing the risk of VTE development.  Venous stasis and ischemia can promote DVT formation via the upregulation of P-selectin and local prothrombotic microparticles34,35.  The hypercoagulable state as well as the inflammation and endothelial damage that occurs during surgery can similarly initiate the clotting cascade and increase the risk of thrombus formation.

With such a large volume of surgeries performed annually, the adjusted risk difference of -0.12% to 0.23% as suggested by Kim et al., could translate into a substantial burden of VTE attributable to surgical duration29.  Consequently, the relationship between operative time and the incidence of VTE should be strongly considered in the postoperative assessment of VTE risk.  Widely used risk stratification tools such as the Rogers score do not take surgical duration into account36, whereas the Caprini score distinguishes only between operations shorter or longer than 45 minutes for the sake of defining “major surgery”37.  In view of these limitations, future development of risk assessment scoring systems should also factor in the length of surgery to guide prophylactic measures.  Overall, a greater understanding of the relationship between VTE and surgical duration will help direct surgical planning, target chemoprophylaxis strategies, and better inform patients and clinicians when deciding to proceed with combined or longer operations.


1.         Pannucci CJ, Basta MN, Fischer JP, Kovach SJ. Creation and validation of a condition-specific venous thromboembolism risk assessment tool for ventral hernia repair. Surgery. 2015;158(5):1304-1313. doi:10.1016/j.surg.2015.04.001

2.         Tzeng C-WD, Katz MHG, Fleming JB, et al. Risk of venous thromboembolism outweighs post-hepatectomy bleeding complications: analysis of 5651 National Surgical Quality Improvement Program patients. HPB. 2012;14(8):506-513. doi:10.1111/j.1477-2574.2012.00479.x

3.         Chan MM, Hamza N, Ammori BJ. Duration of surgery independently influences risk of venous thromboembolism after laparoscopic bariatric surgery. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. 2013;9(1):88-93. doi:10.1016/j.soard.2011.09.019

4.         Mlodinow AS, Khavanin N, Ver Halen JP, Rambachan A, Gutowski KA, Kim JYS. Increased anaesthesia duration increases venous thromboembolism risk in plastic surgery: A 6-year analysis of over 19,000 cases using the NSQIP dataset. Journal of Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery. 2015;49(4):191-197. doi:10.3109/2000656X.2014.981267

5.         Qiu C, Jordan S, Dorfman R, Vu M, Alghoul M, Kim J. Surgical Duration Impacts Venous Thromboembolism Risk in Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction. J reconstr Microsurg. 2018;34(01):047-058. doi:10.1055/s-0037-1606339

6.         Ramanan B, Gupta PK, Sundaram A, et al. In-hospital and postdischarge venous thromboembolism after vascular surgery. Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2013;57(6):1589-1596. doi:10.1016/j.jvs.2012.11.073

7.         Chong W, Bui AH, Menhaji K. Incidence and risk factors for venous thromboembolism events after different routes of pelvic organ prolapse repairs. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2020;223(2):268.e1-268.e26. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2020.05.020

8.         Bekelis K, Labropoulos N, Coy S. Risk of Venous Thromboembolism and Operative Duration in Patients Undergoing Neurosurgical Procedures. Neurosurgery. 2017;80(5):787-792. doi:10.1093/neuros/nyw129

9.         Pannucci CJ, Shanks A, Moote MJ, et al. Identifying Patients at High Risk for Venous Thromboembolism Requiring Treatment After Outpatient Surgery. Annals of Surgery. 2012;255(6):1093-1099. doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182519ccf

10.       McLynn RP, Diaz-Collado PJ, Ottesen TD, et al. Risk factors and pharmacologic prophylaxis for venous thromboembolism in elective spine surgery. The Spine Journal. 2018;18(6):970-978. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2017.10.013

11.       Sager B, Ahn J, Tran J, Khazzam M. Timing and Risk Factors for Venous Thromboembolism After Rotator Cuff Repair in the 30-Day Perioperative Period. Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery. 2019;35(11):3011-3018. doi:10.1016/j.arthro.2019.05.045

12.       Mian O, Matino D, Roberts R, McDonald E, Chan AKC, Chan HHW. Potential Risk Factors Contributing to Development of Venous Thromboembolism for Total Knee Replacements Patients Prophylaxed With Rivaroxaban: A Retrospective Case-Control Study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2020;26:107602962096222. doi:10.1177/1076029620962226

13.       Zhang H, Mao P, Wang C, et al. Incidence and risk factors of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after total hip or knee arthroplasty: a retrospective study with routinely applied venography. Blood Coagulation & Fibrinolysis. 2017;28(2):126-133. doi:10.1097/MBC.0000000000000556

14.       Zhang Z, Shen B, Yang J, Zhou Z, Kang P, Pei F. Risk factors for venous thromboembolism of total hip arthroplasty and total knee arthroplasty: a systematic review of evidences in ten years. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2015;16(1):24. doi:10.1186/s12891-015-0470-0

15.       Kang J, Jiang X, Wu B. Analysis of Risk Factors for Lower-limb Deep Venous Thrombosis in Old Patients after Knee Arthroplasty. Chinese Medical Journal. 2015;128(10):1358-1362. doi:10.4103/0366-6999.156782

16.       Won M-H, Lee G-W, Lee T-J, Moon K-H. Prevalence and Risk Factors of Thromboembolism After Joint Arthroplasty Without Chemical Thromboprophylaxis in an Asian Population. The Journal of Arthroplasty. 2011;26(7):1106-1111. doi:10.1016/j.arth.2010.11.005

17.       Jaffer AK, Barsoum WK, Krebs V, Hurbanek JG, Morra N, Brotman DJ. Duration of Anesthesia and Venous Thromboembolism After Hip and Knee Arthroplasty. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2005;80(6):732-738. doi:10.4065/80.6.732

18.       Keeney JA, Clohisy JC, Curry MC, Maloney WJ. Efficacy of Combined Modality Prophylaxis Including Short-Duration Warfarin to Prevent Venous Thromboembolism After Total Hip Arthroplasty. The Journal of Arthroplasty. 2006;21(4):469-475. doi:10.1016/j.arth.2005.06.017

19.       Mraovic B, Hipszer BR, Epstein RH, Pequignot EC, Parvizi J, Joseph JI. Preadmission Hyperglycemia is an Independent Risk Factor for In-Hospital Symptomatic Pulmonary Embolism After Major Orthopedic Surgery. The Journal of Arthroplasty. 2010;25(1):64-70. doi:10.1016/j.arth.2008.10.002

20.       Shimoyama Y, Sawai T, Tatsumi S, et al. Perioperative risk factors for deep vein thrombosis after total hip arthroplasty or total knee arthroplasty. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. 2012;24(7):531-536. doi:10.1016/j.jclinane.2012.02.008

21.       Xu H, Zhang S, Xie J, et al. A nested case-control study on the risk factors of deep vein thrombosis for Chinese after total joint arthroplasty. J Orthop Surg Res. 2019;14(1):188. doi:10.1186/s13018-019-1231-9

22.       Yukizawa Y, Inaba Y, Kobayashi N, Kubota S, Saito T. Current risk factors for asymptomatic venous thromboembolism in patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty. Modern Rheumatology. 2019;29(5):874-879. doi:10.1080/14397595.2018.1524959

23.       Howard TA, Judd CS, Snowden GT, Lambert RJ, Clement ND. Incidence and risk factors associated with venous thromboembolism following primary total hip arthroplasty in low-risk patients when using aspirin for prophylaxis. HIP International. Published online February 17, 2021:112070002199453. doi:10.1177/1120700021994530

24.       Richey JM, Ritterman Weintraub ML, Schuberth JM. Incidence and Risk Factors of Symptomatic Venous Thromboembolism Following Foot and Ankle Surgery. Foot Ankle Int. 2019;40(1):98-104. doi:10.1177/1071100718794851

25.       Kolz JM, Aibinder WR, Adams RA, Cofield RH, Sperling JW. Symptomatic Thromboembolic Complications After Shoulder Arthroplasty: An Update. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2019;101(20):1845-1851. doi:10.2106/JBJS.18.01200

26.       Xing KH, Morrison G, Lim W, Douketis J, Odueyungbo A, Crowther M. Has the incidence of deep vein thrombosis in patients undergoing total hip/knee arthroplasty changed over time? A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Thrombosis Research. 2008;123(1):24-34. doi:10.1016/j.thromres.2008.05.005

27.       Bagaria V. Incidence and risk factors for development of venous thromboembolism in Indian patients undergoing major orthopaedic surgery: results of a prospective study. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2006;82(964):136-139. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2005.034512

28.       Nagase Y, Yasunaga H, Horiguchi H, et al. Risk Factors for Pulmonary Embolism and the Effects of Fondaparinux After Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty: A Retrospective Observational Study with Use of a National Database in Japan: The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery-American Volume. 2011;93(24):e146(1)-e146(7). doi:10.2106/JBJS.J.01365

29.       Kim JYS, Khavanin N, Rambachan A, et al. Surgical Duration and Risk of Venous Thromboembolism. JAMA Surg. 2015;150(2):110. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.1841

30.       Peterson CW. Venous Thrombosis: An Overview. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy. 1986;6(4P2):12S-17S. doi:10.1002/j.1875-9114.1986.tb04025.x

31.       Xenos ES, Vargas HD, Davenport DL. Association of blood transfusion and venous thromboembolism after colorectal cancer resection. Thrombosis Research. 2012;129(5):568-572. doi:10.1016/j.thromres.2011.07.047

32.       Turpie AG, Chin BS, Lip GY. Venous thromboembolism: pathophysiology, clinical features, and prevention. BMJ. 2002;325(7369):887-890.

33.       Kroegel C, Reissig A. Principle Mechanisms Underlying Venous Thromboembolism: Epidemiology, Risk Factors, Pathophysiology and Pathogenesis. Respiration. 2003;70(1):7-30. doi:10.1159/000068427

34.       Eppihimer MJ, Schaub RG. P-Selectin–Dependent Inhibition of Thrombosis During Venous Stasis. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2000;20(11):2483-2488. doi:10.1161/01.atv.20.11.2483

35.       Wakefield TW, Myers DD, Henke PK. Mechanisms of Venous Thrombosis and Resolution. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2008;28(3):387-391. doi:10.1161/atvbaha.108.162289

36.       Rogers SO, Kilaru RK, Hosokawa P, Henderson WG, Zinner MJ, Khuri SF. Multivariable Predictors of Postoperative Venous Thromboembolic Events after General and Vascular Surgery: Results from the Patient Safety in Surgery Study. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 2007;204(6):1211-1221. doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2007.02.072

37.       Bahl V, Hu HM, Henke PK, Wakefield TW, Campbell DA, Caprini JA. A Validation Study of a Retrospective Venous Thromboembolism Risk Scoring Method. Annals of Surgery. 2010;251(2):344-350. doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181b7fca6

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: