Primary prevention of deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in acute spinal cord injured patients

Spinal Cord. 2002 Jun;40(6):300-3. doi: 10.1038/


Study design: Prospective clinical trial.

Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of a specific protocol for prevention of thrombo-embolic disease occurring during the acute stage of spinal cord lesions, based on the simultaneous use of pharmacological plus mechanical procedures.

Setting: Regional Spinal Unit of Florence, Italy.

Introduction: Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a dangerous pathology whose first clinical sign can be represented by unexpected pulmonary embolism (PE). Its incidence in acute spinal cord injured (SCI) patients is reported to range between 9% and 90%. Its prevention represents one of the major challenges for the clinicians involved in the care of such patients.

Method: Two hundred and seventy-five SCI patients consecutively admitted to our Centre were investigated by colour doppler ultrasonography of lower limbs and pelvis on admission, after 30-45 days and whenever clinically requested. Subcutaneous Nadroparine, a low molecular weight heparin (LMWH), plus early mobilisation, permanently dressed gradient elastic stockings (PGES), and external sequential pneumatic compression (ESPC) of the lower limbs, applied during the first 30 days after injury, were given to all of them. Colour doppler ultrasonography (CDUS) complete investigations of the lower limbs and pelvis were performed on admission, after 30-45 days and whenever clinically requested. The patients were divided into two groups according to their time interval from injury to the admission to our Centre.

Results: The incidence of detected DVT was 2% in those patients (99) admitted early to our centre (within 72 h from the trauma), who immediately received our prophylactic protocol. No PE was reported. The other group of patients (176), all admitted between 8 and 28 days (mean 12 days) developed DVT in 26% of cases. None of these patients received ESPC before being admitted to our Centre. No patient had been admitted between 3 and 8 days interval time post injury.

Conclusion: Early application of pharmacological plus mechanical treatment for DVT prevention produces a marked reduction in such complications. It also reduces the risks of morbidity and mortality in our patients, and, not least, reduces the hospitalization costs during the early period of rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Bandages
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations / methods*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / etiology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Venous Thrombosis / epidemiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*


  • Heparin