U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Journal of Surgical Research 167, 24–31 (2011)


© 2011 Elsevier Inc.

This document is a U.S. government work and is not subject to copyright in the United States.



Background. The literature reports a wide variation in the incidence of venous thromboembolic (VTE) disease in trauma patients. The performance of routine surveillance venous duplex ultrasound of bilateral lower extremities is controversial. Furthermore, recent examinations of the national trauma databank registry have suggested that routine duplex surveillance is associated with higher deep venous thrombosis (DVT) detection rates.

Materials and Methods. We examined the incidence and risk factors for VTE disease in 2827 trauma patients admitted over a 2-y period to a state-verified level I trauma center. Detailed chart review was carried out for patients with VTE disease. We then evaluated the effects of a routine bilateral lower extremity duplex surveillance guideline on VTE detection in the subset of injury patients admitted to the trauma service.

Results. We found an approximately 2% incidence of venous thromboembolic disease in a mostly blunt trauma population. Amongst patients with VTE disease, the most common risk factors were obesity and significant head injury. We then evaluated the 998 patients with injury who were admitted to the trauma service 1 y before and after surveillance guideline implementation. Despite a nearly 5-fold increase in the number of duplex scans, with a substantial increase in cost, we found no significant difference in the incidence of DVT.

Conclusions. Our preliminary data argue against the use of routine duplex surveillance of lower extremities for DVT in trauma patients. A larger, prospective analysis is necessary to confirm these findings.