Venous Thromboembolism Prophylaxis For Esophagectomy: A Survey of Practice Patterns Among Thoracic Surgeons

Brittany A. Zwischenberger, Ching Wei D. Tzeng, Nicholas D. Ward, Joseph B. Zwischenberger, Jeremiah T. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background Current guidelines for gastrointestinal cancer surgical intervention in high-risk patients recommend postoperative venous thromboembolism (VTE) chemical prophylaxis for 4 weeks with low-dose unfractionated heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin, but specific guidelines for esophagectomy are lacking. This survey identified the clinical patterns affecting postesophagectomy VTE chemoprophylaxis use among general thoracic surgeons. Methods General Thoracic Surgery Club members were invited to complete an online survey on VTE prophylaxis to analyze clinical factors affecting their choices. Results Seventy-seven surgeons (37% membership) responded; of these, 94% (72 of 77) completed fellowships, and 76% (58 of 77) worked at universities. VTE chemoprophylaxis administration varied widely in drug, dosing, and duration, with 30% using suboptimal dosing of unfractionated heparin (every 12 hours). Participants agreed that esophagectomy patients are at high VTE risk, yet 29% (22 of 76) of surgeons delay VTE chemoprophylaxis until postoperative day 1. Only 13% (10 of 77) prescribe postdischarge chemoprophylaxis. Minimally invasive surgeons (>90% of cases) were more likely to prescribe postdischarge prophylaxis (p = 0.007). Epidurals, routinely used by 65% (51 of 78), led to less compliance with recommended dosing. Only 53% (27 of 51) of pain teams allow unfractionated heparin every 8 hours, yet 73% (37 of 51) allow suboptimal dosing (every 12 h). Postoperative major complications were identified as a VTE risk factor by only 21% (15 of 72) of surgeons. Most (92% [68 of 74]) would follow esophagectomy-specific guidelines, if developed. Conclusions Thoracic surgeons agree that VTE chemoprophylaxis is necessary for esophagectomy, yet substantial variability exists in current practice. A noteworthy proportion use suboptimal dosing, and very few choose postdischarge prophylaxis. To improve postesophagectomy morbidity and mortality outcomes, thoracic surgeons are willing to follow evidence-based guidelines for VTE chemoprophylaxis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-494
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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