Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) are major causes of morbidity and mortality in patients with acute spinal cord injury. Our preliminary studies indicated that low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) was significantly more effective than standard heparin in preventing these complications. We have now extended these studies by screening an additional 122 patients and treating 60 who met predefined criteria with LMWH in a dose of 3,500 anti-Xa U given subcutaneously once daily for 8 weeks. All patients were examined daily at bedside and had regularly scheduled venous ultrasonography; those with abnormalities had confirmatory venography and lung scans. Postmortem examinations were conducted in those who died. Forty completed the trial without incident, 6 had DVT (4 proximal and 2 distal), 1 had a fatal PE, 1 had postoperative bleeding requiring discontinuation of the LMWH, 10 were transferred or discharged, and 2 died of respiratory failure. The percentage of patients free of thrombosis or bleeding after 8 weeks of treatment was 85.9 ± 5.0% standard error of mean (SEM). Thirty-three patients entered a follow-up observation period of 4 weeks without thromboprophylaxis; 2 weeks into this period 1 had a proximal DVT and 1 had a fatal PE; the course of the remainder was uneventful. We conclude that LMWH compares favorably with standard heparin in preventing venous thromboembolism, and is associated with significantly less bleeding. Eight weeks of prophylaxis seems adequate for most patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation