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Risk of pulmonary embolism greatest during first week following total joint replacement

Prolonged use of therapies to minimize blood clot risk may be unnecessary

The elevated risk of pulmonary embolism (PE) – a blood clot that travels from the leg to the lungs – following total joint replacement (TJR) surgery has been well established, yet little is known about the natural course and timing of this potentially fatal condition.

In the study, "Pulmonary Embolism Following Total Joint Arthroplasty: When Do They Occur?", presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), researchers reviewed the records of 25,660 patients who received TJR between 2000 and 2010. All patients received the anticoagulation (blood thinning) drug Coumadin immediately following surgery and each was monitored, but not screened, for PE. Pulmonary embolism occurring within 90 days of the joint replacement was documented.

The median occurrence of PE was two days following surgery, with 254 out of 286 cases of PE (88.8 percent) occurring within the first seven days after surgery. Based on the findings of this study, anticoagulation treatment beyond seven days may not be necessary.

About the AAOS

With more than 37,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, ( or ( is the premier not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions the interests of patients and advances the highest quality of musculoskeletal health. Orthopaedic surgeons and the Academy are the authoritative sources of information for patients and the general public on musculoskeletal conditions, treatments and related issues. An advocate for improved care, the Academy is participating in the Bone and Joint Initiative (, the global initiative to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health, stimulate research and improve people's quality of life. The Academy's 2012 Annual Meeting is being held February 7 - 11, 2012 at the San Francisco Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Lauren Pearson Riley | EurekAlert!
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