Venous thromboembolism (VTE) following traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a significant clinical concern. This study sought to determine the incidence of VTE and hemorrhagic complications among patients with SCI who received low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) within 24 hours of injury or surgery and identify variables that predict VTE using the prospective Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in SCI (TRACK-SCI) database.
The TRACK-SCI database was queried for individuals with traumatic SCI from 2015 to 2022. Primary outcomes of interest included rates of VTE (including deep vein thrombosis [DVT] and pulmonary embolism [PE]) and in-hospital hemorrhagic complications that occurred after LWMH administration. Secondary outcomes included intensive care unit and hospital length of stay, discharge location type, and in-hospital mortality.
The study cohort consisted of 162 patients with SCI. Fifteen of the 162 patients withdrew from the study, leading to loss of data for certain variables for these patients. One hundred thirty patients (87.8%) underwent decompression and/or fusion surgery for SCI. DVT occurred in 11 (7.4%) of 148 patients, PE in 9 (6.1%) of 148, and any VTE in 18 (12.2%) of 148 patients. The analysis showed that admission lower-extremity motor score (p = 0.0408), injury at the thoracic level (p = 0.0086), admission American Spinal Injury Association grade (p = 0.0070), and younger age (p = 0.0372) were significantly associated with VTE. There were 3 instances of postoperative spine surgery–related bleeding (2.4%) in the 127 patients who had spine surgery with bleeding complication data available, with one requiring return to surgery (0.8%). Thirteen (8.8%) of 147 patients had a bleeding complication not related to spine surgery. There were 2 gastrointestinal bleeds associated with nasogastric tube placement, 3 cases of postoperative non–spine-related surgery bleeding, and 8 cases of other bleeding complications (5.4%) not related to any surgery.
Initiation of LMWH within 24 hours was associated with a low rate of spine surgery–related bleeding. Bleeding complications unrelated to SCI surgery still occur with LMWH administration. Because neurosurgical intervention is typically the limiting factor in initializing chemical DVT prophylaxis, many of these bleeding complications would have likely occurred regardless of the protocol.