Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a significant problem in the perioperative period, increasing patient morbidity, mortality, and health care costs. It is also considered the most preventable of the major postoperative complications. Despite widespread adoption of prophylaxis guidelines, it appears that morbidity from the disease has not substantially changed within the past 2 decades. It is becoming clear that current prophylaxis efforts are not sufficient. Using more potent anticoagulants may decrease the incidence of VTE, but increase the risk for bleeding and infection. Much has been learned about the pathophysiology of venous thrombogenesis in recent years. Beyond the “traditional coagulation cascade,” which anticoagulants modulate, there is a growing appreciation for the roles of tissue factor, monocytes, neutrophils, neutrophil extracellular traps, microvesicles, and platelets in thrombus initiation and propagation. These recent studies explain to some degree why aspirin appears to be remarkably effective in preventing thrombus propagation. Endothelial dysfunction, traditionally thought of as a risk factor for arterial thrombosis, plays an important role within the cusps of venous valves, a unique environment where the majority of venous thrombi originate. This suggests a role for newer treatment modalities such as statins. Not all patients have an equal likelihood of experiencing a VTE, even when undergoing high-risk procedures, and better tools are required to accurately predict VTE risk. Only then will we be able to effectively individualize prophylaxis by balancing the risks for VTE against the risks associated with treatment. Given the different cell types and pathways involved in thrombogenesis, it is likely that multimodal treatment regimens will be more effective, enabling the use of lower and safer doses of hemostatic modulating therapies such as anticoagulants, antithrombotics, and antiplatelet medications.
From the *Department of Anesthesiology, University of California, UC San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California; and †Department of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.
Accepted for publication March 24, 2017.
Conflicts of Interest: See Disclosures at the end of the article.
Reprints will not be available from the authors.
Address correspondence to Ronald J. Gordon, MD, PhD, Department of Anesthesiology, University of California, UC San Diego School of Medicine, 9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093. Address e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.