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Akil P. Patel, Michael T. Koltz, Charles A. Sansur, Mangla Gulati and D. Kojo Hamilton


Patients requiring neurosurgical intervention are known to be at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and attendant morbidity and mortality. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is the most catastrophic sequela of DVT and is the direct cause of death in 16% of all in-hospital mortalities. Protocols for DVT screening and early detection, as well as treatment paradigms to prevent PE in the acute postoperative period, are needed in neurosurgery. The authors analyzed the effectiveness of weekly lower-extremity venous duplex ultrasonography (LEVDU) in patients requiring surgical intervention for cranial or spinal pathology for detection of DVT and prevention of PE.


Data obtained in 1277 consecutive patients admitted to a major tertiary care center requiring neurosurgical intervention were retrospectively reviewed. All patients underwent admission (within 1 week of neurosurgical intervention) LEVDU as well as weekly LEVDU surveillance if the initial study was normal. Additional LEVDU was ordered in any patient in whom DVT was suspected on daily clinical physical examination or in patients in whom chest CT angiography confirmed a pulmonary embolus. An electronic database was created and statistical analyses performed.


The overall incidence of acute DVT was 2.8% (36 patients). Of these cases of DVT, a statistically significant greater number (86%) were discovered on admission (within 1–7 days after admission) screening LEVDU (p < 0.05), whereas fewer were documented 8–14 days after admission (2.8%) or after 14 days (11.2%) postadmission. Additionally, for acute DVT detection in the present population, there were no underlying statistically significant risk factors regarding baseline physical examination, age, ambulatory status, or type of surgery.

The overall incidence of acute symptomatic PE was 0.3% and the mortality rate was 0%.


Performed within 1 week of admission in patients who will undergo neurosurgical intervention, LEVDU is effective in screening for acute DVT and initiating treatment to prevent PE, thereby decreasing the overall mortality rate. Routine LEVDU beyond this time point may not be needed to detect DVT and prevent PE unless a change in the patient's physical examination status is detected.