Venous thromboembolism incidence in head and neck surgery patients: Analysis of the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP) database

Alia Mowery, Tyler Light, Daniel Clayburgh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Objective Venous thromboembolism (VTE) may cause significant postoperative morbidity and mortality; research in other surgical fields suggests an elevated VTE risk persists up to 30 days after surgery, beyond hospital discharge. We performed a review of the Veteran's Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Project (VASQIP) database to determine the 30-day incidence of VTE following head and neck surgery and assess the proportion of VTE that occur post-discharge. Materials and methods A retrospective review was performed of all head and neck ablative procedures captured in the VASQIP database between 1991 and 2015. Post-operative VTE incidence was determined and the relationship of pre-operative data and post-operative mortality to VTE incidence was assessed. Results 48,986 patients were included in the study; there were 152 VTE events (0.31%) and 39 (25.7%) occurred post-discharge. Lower VTE rates were found in parotidectomies (0.22%) and thyroid/parathyroid cases (0.23%), and higher rates in free flap (1.52%) and laryngectomy cases (0.69%). Age >70, recent weight loss, low serum albumin, and increased surgical time were all associated with increased VTE incidence on multivariate analysis. 90-day mortality in patients without VTE was 2.1% compared to 19.7% in patients who experienced a VTE. Conclusion While the documented rate of VTE in a national dataset is relatively low following head and neck surgeries, it is elevated with certain procedure categories and following long operations, and a significant proportion of VTE occur post-discharge. This study provides baseline data to better inform efforts to risk-stratify and customize thromboprophylaxis for patients undergoing head and neck procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalOral Oncology
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018



  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Pulmonary embolus
  • Venous thromboembolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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