Background: In view of recent substantial changes in the management of orthopedic surgery patients, a study was performed in order to update data on the epidemiology of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in patients undergoing lower limb arthroplasty according to contemporary practise.
Methods: We performed a prospective observational study of a cohort of consecutive patients hospitalized for total hip or knee replacement in June 2003. The primary study outcome was the incidence of symptomatic VTE at 3 months. All events were adjudicated by an independent critical event committee.
Results: Data from 1080 patients (mean age 68.0 years) were available; 63.2% were undergoing total hip replacement and 36.8% total knee replacement. Pharmacological thromboprophylaxis was administered for a mean time of 36 days. Injectable antithrombotics were used in more than 99% of patients, irrespective of the type of surgery. The incidence of the primary study outcome was 1.8% (20 events; 95% CI: 1.0-2.6%). The incidences were 1.3% and 2.8% in hip and knee surgery patients, respectively. There were two pulmonary embolisms, both in knee surgery patients; neither was fatal. Thirty-five per cent of VTEs occurred after hospital discharge. An age of at least 75 years and the absence of ambulation before hospital discharge were the only significant (P < 0.05) predictors of VTE. The rate of clinically significant bleeding was 1.0% and the rate of death was 0.9%.
Conclusions: The incidence of symptomatic VTE after lower limb arthroplasty is low, even if there is still a need to improve thromboprophylaxis, notably in patients undergoing knee arthroplasty.