Background: We attempted to determine the incidence of perioperative deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in Chinese patients undergoing elective craniotomy for brain tumors and to assess the efficacy of clinical and serial calf circumference assessment in detecting DVT.
Methods: Between June 1999 and February 2001, 100 consecutive patients who underwent elective craniotomy for brain tumors at the Department of Neurosurgery, University of Hong Kong Medical Centre were examined for perioperative DVT. The demographic data, Glasgow coma score (GCS), mobility status, and the operative details were recorded. Graduated compression stockings and intermittent pneumatic compression were applied perioperatively as prophylaxis against DVT. Serial duplex scans were performed before and after operation. Clinical examination was also performed daily to look for signs of DVT. The calf circumference was measured at fixed levels for both limbs before each duplex scan surveillance.
Results: The study group consisted of 44 males and 56 females, with a mean age of 54 +/- 15 years (range, 20-81 years). There was no preoperative DVT. Postoperative DVT was detected on duplex scan in four patients (4%), two of whom had bilateral involvement. The thrombosis was confined to the calf veins in two limbs. The demographic data, neurologic status and operative details of patients with and without DVT were similar. Patients with DVT had no clinically recognizable signs. The change in calf circumference measurement was also not predictive of DVT.
Conclusions: The incidence of perioperative DVT in Chinese patients undergoing elective craniotomy for brain tumors appears to be low with the present mechanical prophylactic measures. Given the low incidence of proximal DVT as detected by duplex scan, the use of heparin prophylaxis may not be justified because of the increased risk of intracranial bleeding. Clinical assessment with calf circumference measurement is unreliable in the diagnosis of DVT.