Clinical Question: What are the benefits and harms of perioperative pharmacological thromboprophylaxis in cancer patients undergoing surgery?
Background: Both cancer and surgery increase the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE). In postsurgical patients with cancer, the benefits and harms of anticoagulation remain unknown.
Synopsis: Thirty-nine trials were deemed eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Twenty-five of these were prospective and 14 were retrospective. The overall incidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism was 0.9% (across 20 studies) and 0.3% (across 19 studies), respectively. Pharmacologic prophylaxis overall reduced DVT incidence (0.5% vs. 1.2%; relative risk, 0.51; P = .03). Subgroup analysis demonstrated this was significant for abdominal/pelvic surgeries and with low molecular weight heparin. Six studies compared duration of standard prophylaxis (10 days) with extended prophylaxis (4 weeks), with a lower VTE rate in the extended group. Bleeding events were noted in 13 studies and pharmacologic prophylaxis significantly increased bleeding risk (2.7% vs. 8%; RR, 2.51; P less than .0001).
Bottom Line: Perioperative pharmacologic prophylaxis reduces DVT risk in patients with cancer, with greatest risk reduction seen in patients undergoing abdominal/pelvic surgeries. This comes at the cost of increased bleeding complications.
Citations: Guo Q, Huang B, Zhao J, et al. Perioperative pharmacological thromboprophylaxis in patients with cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Surg. 2016 Nov. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002074.
Dr. Patil is a clinical instructor, Division of Hospital Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora.