Prevention of venous thromboembolism: improving practice in surgical patients

G S McKenna, A Karthikesalingam, S R Walsh, T Y Tang, C R Quick
International Journal of Surgery 2009, 7 (1): 50-3

AIMS: Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the most common preventable cause of hospital-related mortality. There are major inadequacies internationally in administering appropriate prophylaxis. Our initial aim was to show whether our local effectiveness of administration was equally poor. With local inadequacy confirmed, our second aim was to design, implement and evaluate the efficacy of a new VTE protocol nested within a surgical clerking proforma.

METHODS: A pilot audit of the prescription and administration of enoxaparin and thromboembolic deterrent stockings for VTE prophylaxis in 51 acutely admitted surgical inpatients (Round 1) was performed against local guidelines derived from the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) criteria. The authors then designed and implemented a VTE prevention protocol incorporating risk assessment and decision support within a new clerking proforma for acute surgical admissions. Local practice was audited against the same criteria in Round 2, which comprised 60 consecutive acute surgical admissions in the same district general hospital.

RESULTS: In the pilot study, only (19/51) 37% of subjects received appropriate VTE prophylaxis. Over half of patients were at high risk for VTE; 18/29 high risk patients and 4/10 medium risk patients were not adequately protected. Following implementation of the quality improvement intervention, (53/60) 88% of subjects received appropriate prophylaxis (p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of a VTE protocol as part of a clerking proforma for acute surgical admissions is a simple and effective way of ensuring that surgical patients receive appropriate thromboprophylaxis. A similar strategy could be employed to broaden the scope of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines to address VTE prevention in all hospitalised patients.

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