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Orthopedics, 2012;35(11):e1659–e1663
Published Online:https://doi.org/10.3928/01477447-20121023-28Cited by:4

Abstract

Deep vein thrombosis is a frequent complication following total joint arthroplasty and other major orthopedic procedures. Pulmonary embolism occurs with or without a diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis, although infrequently (1.5%–10%). In patients with congenital cardiac defects, such as a patent foramen ovale, paradoxical cerebral embolism may also occur. This article describes a case of a 52-year-old woman who sustained a paradoxical cerebral embolism following total knee arthroplasty.

In the workup of a patient with a known murmur and stroke symptoms, paradoxical cerebral embolism should be included in the differential. The initial evaluation should incorporate transesophageal echocardiography because of its accuracy in the demonstration of the cardiac physiology. An abnormal intracardiac or intrapulmonary shunt is essential for paradoxical cerebral embolism, allowing the entrance of the thrombus into cerebral circulation from the venous system. No clear consensus has been reached on the management of patients at risk for paradoxical cerebral embolism prior to orthopedic procedures. However, when an embolic stroke is diagnosed acutely, ideal management includes thrombolytic therapy, but further research is needed to confirm that this is the correct management. Due to the risk of recurrence, postoperative thromboprophylaxis is recommended with or without closure of the foramen ovale. Most importantly, and as demonstrated by the current patient, who partially recovered but did not require walking assistance after 2-year follow-up, treating physicians should be prepared to counsel patients through a lengthened physical rehabilitative process.

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