Background: Thromboembolism is a common and important complication after total hip arthroplasty. A variety of pharmacological and mechanical measures have been proposed for prophylaxis. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of intermittent pneumatic compression as prophylaxis against thromboembolism following total hip arthroplasty. Methods: The prospective study involved a consecutive series of 425 patients in whom a total of 502 (324 primary and 178 revision) total hip arthroplasties had been performed by two surgeons. The patients were managed intraoperatively and postoperatively with use of thigh-high elastic compression stockings and thigh-high intermittent pneumatic compression sleeves. Experienced vascular technologists performed venous duplex ultrasonography on both lower extremities of all patients at a mean of six days (range, two to fifteen days) postoperatively. All patients were followed for at least one year in order to detect late thromboembolism. Results: An asymptomatic deep-vein thrombosis was noted on the scans made after twenty-three (4.6 percent) of the 502 procedures. Nineteen (3.8 percent) of the arthroplasties were followed by the development of a proximal thrombosis and four (0.8 percent), a distal thrombosis. Nineteen of the thromboses were ipsilateral (eighteen were proximal and one, distal), and four were contralateral (one was proximal and three, distal). No symptomatic deep-vein thrombosis developed in the hospital. In addition, three (two proximal and one distal) symptomatic ipsilateral deep-vein thromboses (a prevalence of 0.6 percent) developed three to twenty-three weeks after postoperative scans revealed negative findings and the patients were discharged from the hospital. Three symptomatic pulmonary embolisms (a prevalence of 0.6 percent) were confirmed by ventilation-perfusion scanning while the patients were in the hospital. There were no symptomatic pulmonary embolisms after discharge, and there were no fatal pulmonary embolisms. With the numbers available, we were unable to detect an association between deep-vein thrombosis and age (p = 0.76), gender (p = 0.13), body-mass index (p = 0.12), type of arthroplasty (primary or revision) (p = 0.12), operative approach (p = 0.37), duration of the operation (p = 0.21), type of anesthesia (general or regional) (p = 0.51), units of blood transfused (autologous, p = 0.79; homologous, p = 0.57), blood type (p = 0.18), or the presence of a so-called classic risk factor for the development of thrombosis (p = 0.22). Five arthroplasties (1.0 percent) were followed by the development of a wound hematoma, but only one hematoma necessitated operative drainage. Conclusions: The use of intraoperative and postoperative thigh-high intermittent pneumatic compression, combined with duplex ultrasonography performed by experienced vascular technologists, is effective for prophylaxis against thromboembolism after both primary and revision total hip arthroplasties. The low prevalence of deep-vein thrombosis (4.6 percent) and symptomatic pulmonary embolism (0.6 percent) is comparable with that associated with pharmacological prophylaxis.
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