Blunt cerebrovascular injury (BCVI) can result in devastating stroke. Because of operative inaccessibility, the most common treatment for BCVI is aspirin or a low-dose systemic heparin infusion. While it is assumed that low dose heparin infusion imparts venous thromboembolism (VTE) prophylaxis, this has not been evaluated in the BCVI population. The purpose of this study was to evaluate VTE rates in patients receiving low-dose heparin infusion as treatment for BCVI.
Patients diagnosed with BCVI between 2014 and 2018 were reviewed for initiation of low-dose systemic heparin treatment. VTE was defined as a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. BCVI patients without systemic heparin treatment were compared to BCVI patients with heparin treatment for overall VTE rates. Comparisons were also made to injured patients without a BCVI in our Trauma Activation Protocol (TAP) database.
During the 5-year study period, 265 patients were identified with a BCVI. The majority (61%) were men with a median injury severity score (ISS) 22 (interquartile range [IQR]:14-33). Of these patients, 146 (55.1%) received a heparin infusion to treat BCVI. VTE was identified in eight of these patients (5.5%). Compared to TAP patients (n = 1020) who received standard dosing of VTE chemoprophylaxis, there was no difference in VTE rates compared to BCVI patients who were started on a low dose heparin infusion (3% versus 5.5%, P = 0.16). Area under the receiver operating characteristics (AUROC) was used to evaluate the predictive power of time to initiation of heparin infusion (AUC = 0.64 95% CI 0.42-0.85, P = 0.2) and time to reaching PTT goal (AUC = 0.52 95% CI 0.27-0.77, P = 0.83) as a predictor VTE events.
Low dose heparin infusion is frequently used as an initial treatment of BCVI. In injured patients with BCVI, a low dose heparin infusion is associated with a low rate of VTE, comparable to injured patients without BCVI that received standard VTE chemoprophylaxis.
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Published online: January 27, 2023
Accepted: September 28, 2022
Received in revised form: September 3, 2022
Received: May 25, 2021
© 2022 Published by Elsevier Inc.