Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is independently associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). Given the numerous studies of civilian closed-head injury, the Brain Trauma Foundation recommends venous thromboembolism chemoprophylaxis (VTC) after severe TBI. No studies have specifically examined this practice in penetrating brain injury (PBI). Therefore, the authors examined the safety and effectiveness of early VTC after PBI with respect to worsening intracranial hemorrhage and DVT or PE.
The Kandahar Airfield neurosurgery service managed 908 consults between January 2010 and March 2013. Eighty of these were US active duty members with PBI, 13 of whom were excluded from analysis because they presented with frankly nonsurvivable CNS injury or they died during initial resuscitation. This is a retrospective analysis of the remaining 67 patients.
Thirty-two patients received early VTC and 35 did not. Mean time to the first dose was 24 hours. Fifty-two patients had blast-related PBI and 15 had gunshot wounds (GSWs) to the head. The incidence of worsened intracranial hemorrhage was 16% after early VTC and 17% when it was not given, with the relative risk approaching 1 (RR = 0.91). The incidence of DVT or PE was 12% after early VTC and 17% when it was not given (RR = 0.73), though this difference was not statistically significant.
Early VTC was safe with regard to the progression of intracranial hemorrhage in this cohort of combat-related PBI patients. Data in this study suggest that this intervention may have been effective for the prevention of DVT or PE but not statistically significantly so. More research is needed to clarify the safety and efficacy of this practice.