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Surgery. 2008 Oct;144(4):591-6; discussion 596-7. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2008.06.022. Epub 2008 Aug 29.

Therapeutic anticoagulation in the trauma patient: is it safe?

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  • 1MetroHealth Medical Center, Department of Surgery, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44109-1998, USA.



Trauma patients who require therapeutic anticoagulation pose a difficult treatment problem. The purpose of this study was to determine: (1) the incidence of complications using therapeutic anticoagulation in trauma patients, and (2) if any patient factors are associated with these complications.


An 18-month retrospective review was performed on trauma patients >or= 15 years old who received therapeutic anticoagulation using unfractionated heparin (UH) and/or fractionated heparin (FH). Forty different pre-treatment and treatment patient characteristics were recorded. Complications of anticoagulation were documented and defined as any unanticipated discontinuation of the anticoagulant for bleeding or other adverse events.


One-hundred-fourteen trauma patients were initiated on therapeutic anticoagulation. The most common indication for anticoagulation was deep venous thrombosis (46%). Twenty-four patients (21%) had at least 1 anticoagulation complication. The most common complication was a sudden drop in hemoglobin concentration requiring blood transfusion (11 patients). Five patients died (4%), 3 of whom had significant hemorrhage attributed to anticoagulation. Bivariate followed by logistic regression analysis identified chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (OR = 9.2, 95%CI = 1.5-54.7), UH use (OR = 3.8, 95%CI = 1.1-13.0), and lower initial platelet count (OR = 1.004, 95%CI = 1.000-1.008) as being associated with complications. Patients receiving UH vs. FH differed in several characteristics including laboratory values and anticoagulation indications.


Trauma patients have a significant complication rate related to anticoagulation therapy, and predicting which patients will develop a complication remains unclear. Prospective studies are needed to determine which treatment regimen, if any, is appropriate to safely anticoagulate this high risk population.

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