Pocket hematoma after pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator surgery: influence of patient morbidity, operation strategy, and perioperative antiplatelet/anticoagulation therapy

Chest. 2004 Oct;126(4):1177-86. doi: 10.1378/chest.126.4.1177.


Study objectives: Pocket hematoma is a common complication after pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implantation. Thus, we investigated the influence of patient comorbidity, implantation strategy, operator experience, antiplatelet therapy, and anticoagulation therapy on hematoma rate.

Design: Between 1990 and 2002, a total of 3,164 devices (pectoral pacemakers, 2,792; ICDs, 372) were implanted at our institution. Predictors of hematoma occurrence were determined prospectively and were analyzed by multivariate regression analysis. Operator experience was graded by individual implantation number, as follows: low, < 50; medium, 50 to 100; and high, > 100.

Results: The incidence of pocket hematoma was 4.9%, leading to prolonged hospitalization in 2.0% of all patients. Reoperation for pocket hematoma was required in 1.0% of patients. High-dose heparinization (hazard ratio [HR], 4.2), combined acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)/thienopyridine treatment after coronary stenting (HR, 5.2), and low operator experience (HR, 1.6) were independently predictive of hematoma development. Therapy with ASA alone did not increase the hematoma rate compared to patients who did receive antiplatelet or anticoagulation therapy (3.1% vs 2.5%, respectively; difference not significant). In patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, postoperative high-dose heparinization substantially increased the hematoma rate (10.7% vs 2.9%, respectively; p < 0.001) without reducing the rate of arterial embolism within the first month after implantation (0.18% vs 0.21%, respectively; difference not significant). The infection rate (0.28% within 3 months after implantation) was not influenced by the presence of the pocket hematoma.

Conclusions: The use of high-dose heparinization and combined ASA/thienopyridine treatment are highly predictive for the occurrence of intraoperative bleeding and pocket hematoma in patients who have undergone pacemaker and ICD surgery. We propose recommendations for the management of antiplatelet and anticoagulation therapy in patients undergoing these interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects*
  • Comorbidity
  • Defibrillators, Implantable*
  • Female
  • Hematoma / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pacemaker, Artificial*
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors


  • Anticoagulants
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors