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Original Investigation
May 10, 2017

Vena Cava Filter Use in Trauma and Rates of Pulmonary Embolism, 2003-2015

Author Affiliations
  • 1Trauma Research Program, Chandler Regional Medical Center, Chandler, Arizona
  • 2Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • 3Department of Surgery, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington
  • 4University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
  • 5Trauma Service, Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego, California
JAMA Surg. Published online May 10, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2017.1018
Key Points

Question  Are temporal trends in vena cava filter placement and pulmonary embolism changing over time?

Findings  In this cohort study using data from patients with traumatic injury from 3 databases, rates of vena cava filter placement showed an initial upward trend followed by a precipitous decline. Rates of pulmonary embolism demonstrated an initial increase and were followed by a reduction in the Pennsylvania Trauma Outcome Study and National Trauma Data Bank data sets, with no change in the National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample data set.

Meaning  Vena cava filter use is not associated with rates of pulmonary embolism.


Importance  Vena cava filter (VCF) placement for pulmonary embolism (PE) prophylaxis in trauma is controversial. Limited research exists detailing trends in VCF use and occurrence of PE over time.

Objective  To analyze state and nationwide temporal trends in VCF placement and PE occurrence from 2003 to 2015 using available data sets.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective trauma cohort study was conducted using data from the Pennsylvania Trauma Outcome Study (PTOS) (461 974 patients from 2003 to 2015), the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) (5 755 095 patients from 2003 to 2014), and the National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample (NIS) (24 449 476 patients from 2003 to 2013) databases.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Temporal trends in VCF placement and PE rates, filter type (prophylactic or therapeutic), and established predictors of PE (obesity, pregnancy, cancer, deep vein thrombosis, major procedure, spinal cord paralysis, venous injury, lower extremity fracture, pelvic fracture, central line, intracranial hemorrhage, and blood transfusion). Prophylactic filters were defined as VCFs placed before or without an existing PE, while therapeutic filters were defined as VCFs placed after a PE.

Results  Of the 461 974 patients in PTOS, the mean (SD) age was 47.2 (26.4) and 61.6% (284 621) were men; of the 5 755 095 patients in NTDB, the mean age (SD) was 42.0 (24.3) and 63.7% (3 666 504) were men; and of the 24 449 476 patients in NIS, the mean (SD) age was 58.0 (25.2) and 49.7% (12 160 231) were men. Of patients receiving a filter (11 405 in the PTOS, 71 029 in the NTDB, and 189 957 in the NIS), most were prophylactic VCFs (93.6% in the PTOS, 93.5% in the NTDB, and 93.3% in the NIS). Unadjusted and adjusted temporal trends for the PTOS and NTDB showed initial increases in filter placement followed by significant declines (unadjusted reductions in VCF placement rates, 76.8% in the PTOS and 53.3% in the NTDB). The NIS demonstrated a similar unadjusted trend, with a slight increase and modest decline (22.2%) in VCF placement rates over time; however, adjusted trends showed a slight but significant increase in filter rates. Adjusted PE rates for the PTOS and NTDB showed significant initial increases followed by slight decreases, with limited variation during the declining filter use periods. The NIS showed an initial increase in PE rates followed by a period of stagnation.

Conclusions and Relevance  Despite a precipitous decline of VCF use in trauma, PE rates remained unchanged during this period. Taking this association into consideration, VCFs may have limited utility in influencing rates of PE. More judicious identification of at-risk patients is warranted to determine individuals who would most benefit from a VCF.