Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis in the critically ill: a point prevalence survey of current practice in Australian and New Zealand intensive care units

Megan S Robertson, Alistair D Nichol, Alisa M Higgins, Michael J Bailey, Jeffrey J Presneill, D James Cooper, Steven A Webb, Colin McArthur, Christopher M MacIsaac
Critical Care and Resuscitation: Journal of the Australasian Academy of Critical Care Medicine 2010, 12 (1): 9-15

BACKGROUND: Critically ill patients are at high risk of morbidity and mortality caused by venous thromboembolism (VTE). In addition to premorbid predisposing conditions, critically ill patients may be exposed to prolonged immobility, invasive intravascular catheters and frequent operative procedures, and further may have contraindications to pharmaceutical prophylactic measures designed to attenuate VTE risk. There are limited data describing current VTE prophylaxis regimens in Australia and New Zealand.

OBJECTIVE: To document current Australian and New Zealand management of VTE prophylaxis in a large mixed cohort of critically ill patients.

DESIGN: Prospective, multicentre point prevalence survey endorsed by the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group (ANZICS CTG).

SETTING: 30 public hospital ICUs in Australia and New Zealand surveyed on Wednesday 9 May 2007.

METHODS: For all patients in each ICU on the study day, demographic data, admission diagnosis and information on VTE prophylaxis were prospectively collected.

RESULTS: 502 patients were included in the survey, and 431 of these (86%) received VTE prophylaxis. Of these, 64% (276/431) received pharmacological prophylaxis and 80% (345/431) received mechanical prophylaxis, with 44% (190/431) receiving both. Of those receiving pharmacological prophylaxis, unfractionated heparin was used in 74%, and enoxaparin (low molecular weight heparin) in 23%. Contraindications to pharmacological prophylaxis were reported in 122 patients. Overall, pharmacological prophylaxis was administered to 87% of potentially suitable patients.

CONCLUSIONS: We observed a high prevalence of VTE prophylaxis, with many critically ill patients receiving two or more modalities of prophylaxis. These results show that the potential risk of VTE in critically ill patients is recognised in Australia and New Zealand, and strategies to mitigate this serious complication are widely implemented.

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