The incidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and subsequent pulmonary embolism (PE) in patients undergoing neurosurgery has been reported to be as high as 25%, with a mortality rate from PE between 9 and 50%. Even with the use of pneumatic compression devices, the incidence of DVT has been reported to be 32% in these patients, making prophylactic heparin therapy desirable. Both unfractionated and low-molecular-weight heparin have been shown to reduce the incidence of DVT consistently by 40 to 50% in neurosurgical patients. The baseline rate for major intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) following craniotomy has been reported to be between 1 and 3.9%, but after initiation of heparin therapy this rate has been found to be as high as 10.9%. Therefore, neurosurgeons must balance the risk of PE against the increased risk of postoperative ICH from prophylactic heparin for DVT. The authors review the literature on the incidence of DVT and PE in neurosurgical patients, focusing on the incidence of ICH related to the use of unfractionated and low-molecular-weight heparin in this patient population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology