Objective: To document the incidence of venous thromboembolism in Guillain-Barré syndrome and current practice of anticoagulating these patients.
Design: Retrospective study.
Setting: Acute neurology and rehabilitation wards in a teaching hospital.
Subjects: Seventy-three patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital from 1995 to 1999.
Results: Out of 73 patients, 50 were anticoagulated (68%) for 5-490 days with mean of 72 days. Anticoagulation was discontinued in 28 patients when they could walk independently and in six who were still wheelchair dependent. Five patients developed clinical deep venous thrombosis (DVT) (7%), three of them had pulmonary emboli. Venous thrombosis occurred in the first two months after onset in four patients. Two patients were not anticoagulated when they developed their DVT and the other three were on enoxaparin; one of these three had a pulmonary embolism and died.
Conclusion: Despite prophylactic anticoagulants being used in the majority of patients admitted with major problems of mobility, 6% (3 out of 50) still developed clinically detected DVT and two developed pulmonary embolism. While this incidence is considerably lower than data reported before routine anticoagulation became a standard practice, these data reinforce the need for anticoagulation and suggest that full anticoagulation might be needed to reduce the incidence of thromboembolic complications further.