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Ann Plast Surg. 2015 Jun;74(6):699-702. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000000009.

Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis in the massive weight loss patient: relative risk of bleeding.

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From the *Private Practice, North Bethesda, MD; †Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD; and ‡Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA.



Measures that can reduce the incidence of venous thromboembolism (VTE) are of great clinical importance. In addition to the use of sequential compression devices (SCDs), chemoprophylaxis with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) has been recommended by the American College of Chest Physicians for major general surgery procedures. There remains inconclusive evidence to support guidelines for the plastic surgery population, and some surgeons hesitate to use anticoagulation due to concerns about bleeding in broad planes of dissection. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the risk of postoperative complications secondary to chemical thromboprophylaxis in massive weight loss patients.


Five hundred forty-six surgical cases were enrolled in an institutional review board-approved prospective clinical database in the 2 years before and after routine LMWH use was initiated. Inclusion required weight loss of greater than 50 lb. Group 1 had SCDs only (n = 334), whereas group 2 had SCDs and LMWH 6 hours postoperatively (n = 212). Risk of VTE was calculated and complications of LMWH administration were analyzed.


The overall risk of deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism was 0.18%. There was no statistical difference between the groups (P > 0.05). Overall risk of hematoma was 5.4%, in concordance with the literature. There was no difference in hematoma risk between the groups (4.6% before and 6.6% after LMWH; P = 0.3). The transfusion rate was 8.5% before use of LMWH (group 1) and 7.6% after (group 2; P = 0.7).


Strategies to reduce VTE rates remain important in all areas of plastic surgery. We have demonstrated no increased risk of transfusion or hematoma and a low overall incidence of VTE after implementing a chemoprophylaxis regimen. Postoperative LMWH can provide an excellent balance between VTE prophylaxis and the risk of bleeding complications.

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