Background: Despite advances in primary prophylaxis, venous thromboembolism still occurs in a considerable number of high-risk surgical patients. Screening with conventional ultrasound imaging to detect asymptomatic deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has been suggested as a strategy to improve management of such patients, but it is insufficiently sensitive. We evaluated the ability of color Doppler ultrasound to improve the sensitivity of compression ultrasound in the detection of asymptomatic DVT in high-risk orthopedic patients.
Methods: We prospectively evaluated bilateral compression and color Doppler ultrasound measurements of the entire leg in 204 consecutive patients who underwent elective hip or knee replacement surgery, using contrast venography as the reference test. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value of the ultrasonography tests were determined.
Results: The sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value (with 95% confidence intervals [CIs]) of compression ultrasound for the detection of proximal DVT were 60% (39%-81%), 96% (92%-99%), and 71% (48%-89%) respectively. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value (with 95% CIs) of compression ultrasound for the detection of calf vein thrombosis were 33% (18%-52%), 91% (83%-96%), and 58% (34%-80%), respectively. Color Doppler ultrasonography did not identify any additional proximal or calf vein thrombi to those detected by compression ultrasound alone. The sensitivity for all thrombi was 47% (95% CI, 34%-61%) with a positive predictive value of 65% (95% CI, 48%-79%).
Conclusions: Color Doppler ultrasonography has a moderate to low accuracy for the detection of DVT in patients who have had hip and knee replacement surgery. Color Doppler ultrasonography does not increase the detection rate for asymptomatic DVT over compression ultrasound and thus cannot be recommended as a screening test in this setting.