Early Detection and Management of Venous Thrombosis in Skull Base Surgery: Role of Routine Doppler Ultrasound Monitoring

Neurosurgery. 2022 Jul 1;91(1):115-122. doi: 10.1227/neu.0000000000001936. Epub 2022 Apr 7.


Background: Venous thromboembolism (VTE), encompassing deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), causes postoperative morbidity and mortality in neurosurgical patients. The use of pharmacological prophylaxis for DVT prevention in the immediate postoperative period carries increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage, especially after skull base surgeries.

Objective: To investigate the impact of routine Doppler ultrasound monitoring in prevention and tiered management of VTE after skull base surgery.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed a large cohort of consecutive adult patients who were prospectively and uniformly managed with routine monitoring by Doppler ultrasound for DVT after resection of a skull base tumor.

Results: A total of 389 patients who underwent 459 surgeries for intracranial tumor resection were analyzed. Skull base meningioma was the most common pathology. Forty-four (9.59%) postoperative VTEs were detected: 9 (1.96%) with PE with or without DVT and 35 (7.63%) with DVT alone. Four cases of subsegmental PE were diagnosed without evidence of lower extremity DVT, possibly in the setting of peripherally inserted central catheters maintenance. One patient had a preoperative proximal DVT and underwent a prophylactic inferior vena cava filter but expired from PE after discharge. Prior history of VTE (risk ratio [RR] 5.13; 95% CI 2.76-7.18; P < .01), anesthesia duration (RR 1.14; 95% CI 1.03-1.27; P = .02), and blood transfusion (RR 1.95; 95% CI 1.01-3.37; P = .04) were associated with VTE development on multivariate analysis.

Conclusion: Routine postoperative venous ultrasound monitoring detects asymptomatic DVT guiding management. This is an alternative strategy to prescribing pharmacological VTE prophylaxis immediately after lengthy surgeries for intracranial tumors. Peripherally inserted central catheters were associated with subsegmental PE.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Embolism* / complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism* / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Skull Base
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler / adverse effects
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / etiology
  • Venous Thrombosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Venous Thrombosis* / drug therapy
  • Venous Thrombosis* / etiology


  • Anticoagulants