Thromboembolic complications in thermally injured patients

World J Surg. Nov-Dec 1992;16(6):1151-4; discussion 1155. doi: 10.1007/BF02067085.


The frequency of thromboembolic complications in burn patients has been estimated to range from 0.4% to 7%. The clinical significance of these events is often debated and has prompted some centers to adopt the routine prophylactic use of low dose heparin prophylaxis. A 10 year review of 2,103 burn patients treated at this institution was undertaken. Twenty-five (1.2%) patients, with a mean age of 40.0 years and an average burn size of 49.3% total body surface area (TBSA), were identified as having significant pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE). In only 3 (0.14%) patients was the thromboembolism considered to be a cause of death. Nineteen (0.9%) patients, with an average age of 36.7 years and a mean burn size of 48.3% TBSA, developed clinically evident deep venous thrombosis (DVT); however, in only 1 (0.05%) patient did the disease progress to fatal PTE. A review of the literature reveals a 0.6% to 5% incidence of complications related to low dose heparin therapy which includes bleeding, thrombocytopenia, and arterial thrombosis. We feel that the infrequency of clinically significant PTE and DVT in burn patients and the comparable or greater rate of complications associated with heparin prophylaxis mitigate against the routine use of low dose heparin therapy except in patients at high risk for these events.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Burns / complications*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thrombophlebitis / etiology*
  • Thrombophlebitis / prevention & control


  • Heparin