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Neurocrit Care. 2010 Apr;12(2):297-309. doi: 10.1007/s12028-009-9316-7.

Prophylaxis for venous thrombo-embolism in neurocritical care: a critical appraisal.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA.


Venous thrombo-embolism (VTE) is frequently encountered in critically ill neurological and neurosurgical patients admitted to intensive care units. This patient population includes those with brain neoplasm, intracranial hemorrhage, ischemic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, pre- and post-operative patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures and those with traumatic brain injury, and acute spinal cord injury (SCI). There is a wide variability in clinical practice for thromboprophylaxis in these patients, in part due to paucity of data based on randomized clinical trials. Here, we review the current literature on the incidence of VTE in the critically ill neurological and neurosurgical patients as well as appraise available data to support particular practice paradigms for specific subsets of these patients. Data synthesis was conducted via search of Medline, Cochrane databases, and manual review of article bibliographies. Critically ill neurological and neurosurgical patients have higher susceptibility to VTE. Intermittent compression devices with or without anti-thrombotics is generally the method of choice for thromboprophylaxis. Low molecular weight heparin is the method of choice in certain patient subgroups such as those with SCI and ischemic stroke. Inferior vena cava filters may play a role in thromboprophylaxis in selected cases. Without clear guidelines that can be universally applied to this diverse group of patients, prophylaxis for VTE should be tailored to the individual patient with cautious assessment of benefits versus risks. There is a need for higher level evidence to guide VTE prophylaxis in certain subgroups of this patient population.

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