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J Trauma. 1993 Oct;35(4):637-41; discussion 641-2.

Prophylactic vena cava filter insertion in severely injured trauma patients: indications and preliminary results.

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Department of Surgery, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington 05405.


Pulmonary embolism (PE) remains a significant problem in trauma patients. A 5-year review at this institution revealed 25 PEs (seven fatal) in 2525 admitted trauma patients (1% incidence). Three groups of high-risk patients were identified: (1) those with severe head injury and coma; (2) those with spinal cord injuries with neurologic deficit; and (3) those with pelvic and long bone fractures. The relative risk of PE in these high-risk patients was 21 to 54 times that of the general trauma population. Beginning in July 1991, as prophylaxis against PE, vena cava filters (VCF) were inserted in patients whose injuries placed them in a high-risk group. Thirty-four patients had VCFs inserted percutaneously in the radiology suite without complications. On follow-up examination, 17.6% developed documented lower extremity deep vein thrombosis. There were no PEs. Overall, the incidence of PE in the general trauma population was significantly decreased from 1% to 0.25% (p < 0.05; chi 2). We conclude that insertion of VCFs in high-risk trauma patients is safe and efficacious in decreasing the incidence of PE.

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