Objectives: The purpose of this study is to characterize the presentation, size, treatment, and complications of pulmonary embolism (PE) in a large series of orthopaedic trauma patients who developed PE after injury. Methods: We reviewed the records of orthopaedic trauma patients who developed a PE within 6 months of injury at 9 trauma centers and 2 tertiary care facilities. Results: There were 312 patients, 186 men and 126 women, average age 58 years. Average body mass index was 29.6, and average Injury Severity Score was 18. Seventeen percent received anticoagulation before injury, and 5% had a history of PE. After injury, 87% were placed on prophylactic anticoagulation and 68% with low-molecular weight heparin. Fifty-three percent of patients exhibited shortness of breath or chest pain. Average heart rate and O2 saturation before PE diagnosis were 110 and 94%, respectively. Thirty-nine percent had abnormal arterial blood gas, and 30% had abnormal electrocardiogram findings. Eighty-nine percent had computed tomography pulmonary angiography for diagnosis. Most clots were segmental (63%), followed by subsegmental (21%), lobar (9%), and central (7%). The most common treatment was unfractionated heparin and Coumadin (25%). Complications of anticoagulation were common: 10% had bleeding at the surgical site. Other complications of anticoagulation included gastrointestinal bleed, anemia, wound complications, death, and compartment syndrome. PE recurred in 1% of patients. Four percent died of PE within 6 months. Conclusions: This is the first large data set to evaluate the course of PE in an orthopaedic trauma population. The complications of anticoagulation are significant and were as common in patients with lower risk clots as those with higher risk clots. Level of evidence: III (retrospective). See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
- orthopaedic trauma
- pulmonary embolism