To anticoagulate? Controversy in the management of thrombotic complications of head & neck infections
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OBJECTIVE: To review the thrombotic complications of head and neck infections, including Lemierre's syndrome, and their management. METHODS: A retrospective review of pediatric patients presenting to McMaster Children's Hospital from 2009 to 2013 was undertaken. The literature was reviewed for evidence regarding the use of anticoagulation therapy in this population. RESULTS: Eleven cases (6 males, 5 females) were identified. The median age was 10.9 (range 14 months-17 years). The most frequent head and neck infection causing a thrombotic complication was mastoiditis (n = 6). All had thrombi identified on imaging, with the most common location being the sigmoid sinus (n = 6) followed by the internal jugular vein (n = 5). All 11 patients were anti-coagulated with low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) within a median of 2 days of diagnosis (average duration 105.8 days). Ten patients (90.9%) had thrombus improvement or resolution within a median of 3.4 months (range 1.0-13.9). Adverse sequelae from the thrombi were MCA infarct (n = 1), septic pulmonary emboli (n = 4), cranial nerve palsies (n = 3) and Horner's syndrome (n = 2). There were no adverse effects from anti-coagulation therapy. Review of the literature revealed anticoagulant use in 63.7% of pediatric cases reported since 2002. CONCLUSION: Anticoagulation remains controversial in the management of thrombotic complications from head and neck infections. Based on this case series, certain recommendations can be made regarding the benefits of anticoagulation, which appear to outweigh the risks. Further research is required to establish evidence for consensus in the antithrombotic management of thrombotic sequelae of head and neck infections.
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