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ANZ J Surg. 2004 Dec;74(12):1082-97.

Evidence-based risk factors for postoperative deep vein thrombosis.

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Health Informatics Unit, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia.



Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a common postoperative complication that is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Thromboprophylaxis has been shown to be underused. In the absence of prophylaxis, rates as high as 50% have been reported following orthopaedic surgery, and 25% following general surgery. Many risk factors have been suggested but there is often little evidence to support these claims.


A systematic review was performed to determine the evidence base behind each suggested risk factor, and, where sufficient data were available, a random-effects meta-analysis was performed.


There is evidence to support a significant association between increased age, obesity, a past history of thromboembolism, varicose veins, the oral contraceptive pill, malignancy, Factor V Leiden gene mutation, general anaesthesia and orthopaedic surgery, with higher rates of postoperative DVT, although there remain some variables within the study designs that may lead to overestimation of effect. There is no evidence to support the suggested risk factors of hormone replacement therapy, gender, ethnicity or race, chemotherapy, other thrombophilias, cardiovascular factors, smoking and blood type.


An accurate knowledge of evidence-based risk factors is important in predicting and preventing postoperative DVT, and can be incorporated into a decision support system for appropriate thromboprophylaxis use.

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