Use of Greenfield filters (GFs) to prevent fatal pulmonary embolism (PE) in trauma patients is generally well accepted. Nonetheless, a surprisingly small number of trauma surgeons insert filters in their patients. Among the reasons cited is fear of complications.
We observed three femoral arteriovenous fistulae (AVF) in trauma patients who had inferior vena caval placement of filters for PE prophylaxis in one 12-month period (academic year 1999). In an effort to document the magnitude of this problem, we evaluated trauma patients who had a GF inserted in academic year 2000.
During that year, 133 consecutive patients (8.6% of trauma admissions) received 133 GFs through a percutaneous approach. The most common isolated indications for GF insertion included closed head injuries (n = 28), multiple long bone fractures (n = 27), pelvic and acetabular fractures (n = 6), spinal cord injuries (n = 16), and vertebral fractures (n = 3). Five patients had documented deep venous thrombosis (DVT) diagnosed by duplex ultrasonography before GF placement, and 11 patients had other indications requiring a filter. There were 37 patients with more than one indication requiring filter placement. Most patients (57%) underwent preinsertion duplex scanning of their lower extremity veins; 77% of patients underwent postinsertion scanning. Filters were inserted an average of 6.8 ± 0.6 (SE) days after trauma. No AVF were suspected clinically or detected ultrasonographically. No operative or postoperative complications occurred. DVT was observed in 30% of patients despite 92% prophylaxis; there was a 26% incidence of de novo thrombi detected. None of the patients evidenced DVT clinically.
Our data indicate that complications of GF insertion for prophylaxis against PE from DVT complicating trauma patients continue to be negligible. In addition, the incidence of insertion-site thrombosis may be lower than expected. Moreover, femoral AVF is a rare complication of this procedure.
From the Department of Surgery, New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey.
Submitted for publication November 27, 2001.
Accepted for publication February 19, 2002.
Address for reprints: Kenneth G. Swan, MD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 185 South Orange Avenue, Room G-592, Newark, NJ 07103; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.