Infection and venous thromboembolism in patients undergoing colorectal surgery: What is the relationship?

M. Francesca Monn, Xuan Hui, Brandyn D. Lau, Michael Streiff, Elliott R. Haut, Elizabeth C. Wick, Jonathan E. Efron, Susan L. Gearhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: There is evidence demonstrating an association between infection and venous thromboembolism. We recently identified this association in the postoperative setting; however, the temporal relationship between infection and venous thromboembolism is not well defined OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine the temporal relationship between venous thromboembolism and postoperative infectious complications in patients undergoing colorectal surgery. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: A retrospective cohort analysis was performed using data for patients undergoing colorectal surgery in the National Surgical Quality Improvement Project 2010 database. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measures were the rate and timing of venous thromboembolism and postoperative infection among patients undergoing colorectal surgery during 30 postoperative days. RESULTS: Of 39,831 patients who underwent colorectal surgery, the overall rate of venous thromboembolism was 2.4% (n = 948); 729 (1.8%) patients were diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, and 307 (0.77%) patients were diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. Eighty-eight (0.22%) patients were reported as developing both deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Following colorectal surgery, the development of a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, organ space surgical site infection, or deep surgical site infection was associated with a significantly increased risk for venous thromboembolism. The majority (52%85%) of venous thromboembolisms in this population occurred the same day or a median of 3.5 to 8 days following the diagnosis of infection. The approximate relative risk for developing any venous thromboembolism increased each day following the development of each type of infection (range, 0.40%1.0%) in comparison with patients not developing an infection. LIMITATIONS: We are unable to account for differences in data collection, prophylaxis, and venous thromboembolism surveillance between hospitals in the database. Additionally, there is limited patient follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: These findings of a temporal association between infection and venous thromboembolism suggest a potential early indicator for using certain postoperative infectious complications as clinical warning signs that a patient is more likely to develop venous thromboembolism. Further studies into best practices for prevention are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-505
Number of pages9
JournalDiseases of the colon and rectum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014


  • Colorectal surgery
  • National Surgical Quality Improvement Project
  • Surgical outcome
  • Surgical site infection
  • Venous thromboembolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology

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