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Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2001 Nov 1;58 Suppl 2:S4-13.

Venous thromboembolism following major orthopedic surgery: review of epidemiology and economics.

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  • 1Policy Analysis, Inc., Four Davis Court, Brookline, MA 02445, USA.


The epidemiology and economics of venous thromboembolism (VTE) associated with hip and knee arthroplasty and surgical repair of hip fracture are reviewed. In the 1960s and 1970s, prior to the widespread use of prophylaxis, the risk of VTE following major orthopedic surgery was substantial. The risk of fatal pulmonary embolism (PE) following hip fracture repair may have been as high as 7.5%. With improvements in surgical and anesthetic techniques and the use of anticoagulant prophylaxis, these risks have decreased significantly for most patients. Current risks after hip and knee arthroplasty appear to be about 2.5% for deep vein thrombosis, 1% for nonfatal PE, and a few tenths of 1% for fatal PE over a three-month period following surgery. Because of the traumatic nature of the injury, delays in getting to surgery, and their more advanced age and poorer overall health, hip fracture patients appear to have a greater risk of postoperative VTE, but data are lacking for a reliable estimate of current risk. The cost of VTE after major orthopedic surgery includes initial therapy (the chief component), follow-up care, and the expected costs of major hemorrhage (due to anticoagulation), recurrent VTE, and postthrombotic syndrome. The total cost per patient of such care is approximately $11,600. The risk of VTE after surgery to replace hip and knee joints and repair hip fracture is far lower today than in the 1960s and 1970s, but the cost of treating VTE remains high: an estimated $11,600 per patient, including hospitalization costs.

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