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Anesth Analg. 1995 Oct;81(4):757-62.

The incidence of venous emboli during extramedullary guided total knee arthroplasty.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.


During total knee arthroplasty (TKA), instrumentation of the marrow cavity with an intramedullary guide appears responsible for fatal intraoperative pulmonary embolism. Transesophageal echocardiography demonstrates venous emboli (VE) after tourniquet deflation during intramedullary guided TKA. Extramedullary guides avoid manipulating the marrow cavity. We determined the incidence of VE in 20 patients undergoing extramedullary guided TKA. Recordings of hemodynamic variables, mixed venous oximetry, end-tidal CO2 and N2 tensions, and echocardiograph images occurred after induction of anesthesia, after tourniquet inflation, during cementing, and for 15 min after tourniquet deflation. Large VE appeared in 14 patients and small VE in the other 6 patients. Large VE occurred only after deflation of the tourniquet. Beginning 3 min after tourniquet deflation, mean pulmonary arterial pressures increased from the baseline of 21 +/- 1.0 to 30 +/- 1.3 mm Hg and remained increased for the duration of the procedure. The incidence of large VE with extramedullary guided TKA did not differ compared to the previously reported incidence with intramedullary guided TKA. These data suggest that VE might arise from a thrombogenic effect of the tourniquet rather than from manipulation of the marrow cavity.

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