Low relative muscle volume: Correlation with prevalence of venous thromboembolism following total knee arthroplasty

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There have been many efforts to find modifiable risk factors for venous thromboembolism (VTE) in the perioperative period of total knee arthroplasty (TKA), while no study has investigated the relationship between the muscle mass and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism frequency following TKA. This study aimed to evaluate the relationship between muscle volume and the prevalence of symptomatic and radiologically confirmed venous thromboembolism (VTE) after total knee arthroplasty (TKA).


A total of 261 consecutive patients who underwent primary TKA between 2013 and 2015 were enrolled. Computed tomographic venography with pulmonary angiography (CTVPA) was performed between the 5th and 7th postoperative days to assess the presence of VTE. Four parameters of muscle volume at three levels were evaluated on CTVPA: (i) the cross-sectional area of all skeletal muscles (skeletal muscle index) and total psoas area at the level of the third lumbar vertebrae; (ii) the vastus lateralis muscle at the thigh level; and (iii) the posterior crural muscle at the lower leg level. The relationship between the muscle volume at each level and the prevalence of VTE after TKA was evaluated with multivariate adjusted logistic regression models.


The CTVPA scan showed no proximal DVT, and all thrombi were located in muscular, peroneal, and posterior tibial veins. In unilateral TKA, patients with lower muscle volume of the vastus lateralis at the thigh level in the nonoperated limb had significantly higher prevalence of distal DVT in the operated limb (adjusted OR: 2.97 at subclinical DVT revealed by CTVPA and adjusted OR: 2.68 at symptomatic DVT). This finding was also discovered in patients who underwent simultaneous bilateral TKA (adjusted OR: 1.73–2.97 at subclinical DVT and adjusted OR:1.76–1.86 at symptomatic DVT).


The relative muscle volume of the vastus lateralis at the thigh level was negatively associated with the prevalence of symptomatic and radiologically confirmed DVT, suggesting that low thigh muscle mass is an independent risk factor for VTE in the postoperative period of TKA.