Background: Elective hip-replacement surgery carries significant risk of venous thromboembolism, despite use of thromboprophylaxis. We aimed to see whether the pentasaccharide fondaparinux, the first drug of a new class of synthetic antithrombotic agents, could reduce this risk to a greater extent than other available treatments.
Methods: In a double-blind study, we randomly assigned 2275 consecutive patients aged 18 years or older who were undergoing elective hip-replacement surgery to receive postoperative subcutaneous injections of either 2.5 mg fondaparinux once daily or 30 mg enoxaparin twice daily. The primary efficacy outcome was venous thromboembolism to day 11. The main safety outcomes were bleeding and death. Patients were followed up for 6 weeks.
Findings: We assessed venous thromboembolism to day 11 in 1584 (70%) of 2275 patients. By day 11, venous thromboembolisms were recorded in 48 (6%) of 787 patients on fondaparinux and in 66 (8%) of 797 patients on enoxaparin. The relative reduction in risk was 26.3% (95% CI -10.8 to 52.8, p=0.099). The two groups did not differ in the number of patients who died or in the number who had clinically relevant bleeding.
Interpretation: In patients undergoing elective hip-replacement surgery, 2.5 mg fondaparinux once daily was not significantly more effective than 30 mg enoxaparin twice daily in reducing risk of venous thromboembolism. However, the lower risk recorded with fondaparinux than enoxaparin was clinically important, with no increase in clinically relevant bleeding.