Long Surgery Duration Raises Risk of Venous Thromboembolism

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New research validates the long-upheld belief that lengthy surgical procedures increase the risk of venous thromboembolisms (VTE).

John Y.S. Kim, MD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues examined the link between blood clots, surgery duration, and post-surgical complications like deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

The researchers analyzed data from over 1.7 million patients collected from 2005 to 2011 from over 300 health institutions. 13,809 patients experienced postoperative VTE. Of that group, 10,198 patients developed deep vein thrombosis and 4,772 patients developed pulmonary embolism.

Patients whose surgical procedures were longer than average had a 1.27-fold increase in risk of developing VTE, while patients that underwent shorter procedures had less of a risk. Among the three most common surgeries—appendectomy, gall bladder and gastric bypass—surgery time was a risk factor of VTE.

Although the researchers are not able to definitively conclude the cause-and-effect relationship between longer surgery durations and VTE, they suggest that the findings should motivate physicians to perform more thorough risk assessments to better reduce postoperative complications and health-care costs. 

blood clot
Long Surgery Duration Raises Risk of Venous Thromboembolism

Dr. John Y. S. Kim, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL, and colleagues examined the link between blood clots — also known as venous thromboembolisms (VTE) — and surgery duration for the study, published by JAMA Surgery.

According to the researchers, there is a widely accepted association between longer surgical procedures and death, as well as blood clots, but this association had yet to be assessed quantitatively using a sufficiently strong database.

VTEs are a serious medical condition. Doctors often use VTE to describe two conditions occurring simultaneously: deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

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