Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Incidences of fatal postoperative pulmonary embolism after prophylaxis with dextran 70 and low-dose heparin: an international multicentre study.

Br Med J 1980; 280 doi: (Published 12 January 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;280:69
  1. U F Gruber,
  2. T Saldeen,
  3. T Brokop,
  4. B Eklöf,
  5. I Eriksson,
  6. I Goldie,
  7. L Gran,
  8. M Hohl,
  9. T Jonsson,
  10. S Kristersson,
  11. K G Ljungström,
  12. T Lund,
  13. H M Moe,
  14. E Svensjö,
  15. D Thomson,
  16. J Torhorst,
  17. A Trippestad,
  18. M Ulstein


    A total of 4352 patients were admitted to a prospective' randomised multicentre trial comparing the prophylactic efficacy of dextran 70 and low-dose heparin against fatal pulmonary embolism after elective operations for general, orthopaedic, urological, and gynaecological conditions. Out of 3984 patients correctly admitted, 1993 were allocated to receive dextran 70 and 1991 to receive low-dose heparin. Withdrawal of prophylaxis because of bleeding or technical difficulties occurred more often in the heparin group, but allergic reactions were more common in the dextran group. Of the 75 patients who died within 30 days after operation, 38 had been given dextran and 37 low-dose heparin. Necropsy was performed in 33 and 32 of these cases respectively. In six patients in each group pulmonary embolism was the sole or a contributory cause of death. Of these, five patients in the dextran group and two in the heparin group had received a full course of prophylaxis. There was no statistically significant difference between the two treatment groups in the incidence of fatal pulmonary embolism after a full course of prophylaxis.