Introduction Respiratory complications are common after arthroplasty, with pulmonary thromboembolic disease (PTE) and fat emboli being the most serious. A scintigraphic study was designed to assess the occurrence of both diseases. A prospective tomographic study of perfusion was performed within 24 h of arthroplasty. Details of the detection of fat embolism will be presented elsewhere. Methods Patients with previous PTE were excluded. Tomographic lung studies were acquired after 99mTc-macroaggregated albumin injection. Pre- and post-operative arterial blood gases (ABGs) and relevant chest radiography/computed tomography scans were obtained. ABGs were analysed as the difference in alveolar-arterial oxygen gradients, pre- and post-operatively (DA-a). Results Forty patients were studied (16F, 24M) with a mean age of 71 years (range 36-88 years). Of these, 16 were hip and 24 knee arthroplasties. PTE was detected in 25 of 38 (66%) patients evaluated. The value of DA-a was significantly different between patients with PTE and without PTE (P > 0.05). Administration of prophylactic pre-operative low molecular weight heparin makes no difference to the early onset of PTE. Conclusion There is a high incidence of PTE immediately after arthroplasty.
- Pulmonary thromboembolism