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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2000 Aug;82(6):795-800.

Meta-analysis of thromboembolic prophylaxis after total knee arthroplasty.

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  • 1Hospital for Special Surgery, Cornell University Medical Centre, New York, NY 10021, USA.


We performed a meta-analysis of the English literature to assess the efficacy of four common regimes for thromboembolic prophylaxis after total knee arthroplasty: aspirin, warfarin, low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) and pneumatic compression. We reviewed 136 articles and abstracts published between January 1980 and December 1997. Papers not using routine venography and a lung scan or angiography to detect deep-venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary emboli (PE) respectively, were excluded. Of the 136 studies, 23 with 6,001 patients were selected. The incidence of DVT was 53% (1,701/3,214) in the aspirin group, 45% (541/1,203) in the warfarin group, 29% (311/1,075) in the LMWH group, and 17% (86/509) in the pneumatic compression device group. Intermittent pneumatic compression devices and LMWH were significantly better than warfarin (p < 0.0001) or aspirin (p < 0.0001) in preventing DVT. The incidence of asymptomatic PE was 11.7% in the aspirin group (222/1,901), 8.2% (101/1,229) in the warfarin group and 6.3% (24/378) in the pneumatic compression group. No studies with LMWH used routine lung scans. Warfarin and pneumatic compression were significantly better than aspirin in preventing asymptomatic PE (p < 0.05). The incidence of symptomatic PE was 1.3% (23/1,800) in the aspirin group, 0.4% (2/559) in the warfarin group, 0.5% (2/416) in the LMWH group and 0% (0/177) in the pneumatic compression group. No statistically significant difference was noted between the above prophylactic regimes due to the very small incidence of symptomatic PE. Prophylaxis for thromboembolic disease in TKA may have to include a combination of some of the above regimes to incorporate their advantages.

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