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J Orthop Sci. 2006 Mar;11(2):140-5.

Usefulness of arterial blood gas analysis and D-dimer measurement in the assessment of pulmonary embolism after orthopedic surgery.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Toranomon Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.



Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) after spinal or lower extremity surgery are well recognized as common complications. Since 1995 we have investigated the incidence of PE after orthopedic surgery using ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) lung scans, and the prevalence of PE was about 10%. With a view to detecting early-stage PE by simple examinations, we evaluated the use of both the blood gas analysis and the D-dimer measurement after spinal or lower extremity surgery.


Altogether, 85 patients who underwent spinal or lower extremity surgery were eligible for the study. Pneumatic sequential leg compression devices (PSLCDs) were utilized continuously both intra- and postoperatively. Arterial blood gas analysis and D-dimer measurement were performed pre- and postoperatively on days 3 and 7. We set lung scan criteria as follows: postoperative decrease in Pa(O2) (deltaPa(O2) by > or = 10 torr (group G), postoperative D-dimer of > or = 1 microg/ml (group D), or both. Patients with the criteria went on to undergo lung scans, and PE was diagnosed by the existence of any mismatch between ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) lung scans.


A total of 44 (51.8%) patients met the lung scan criteria and underwent perfusion lung scans, 10 (11.7%) of whom were diagnosed as PE. In groups G and D, about 30% showed PE. Moreover, six (85.7%) of the seven patients with both criteria showed a significant increase (83.7%) in the prevalence of PE.


Patients with the above criteria showed a high prevalence of PE. Moreover, 10 (11.7%) of the 85 patients were diagnosed as having PE, which corresponded to the prevalence in our former studies where lung scans were performed in all patients. The blood gas analysis and the D-dimer measurement may be utilized as the first screening examinations.

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