Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis in medically ill patients and the development of strategies to improve prophylaxis rates

Am J Hematol. 2005 Mar;78(3):167-72. doi: 10.1002/ajh.20281.


Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is common but often unrecognized in medically ill patients. Over the past 5 years, three large-scale placebo-controlled trials enrolling a total of 5500 medically ill patients have highlighted the risk of VTE in this group. These trials have helped to define a specific at-risk patient profile, including those admitted to the hospital with severe congestive heart failure, respiratory illness, acute infection, and inflammatory bowel disease. We performed a retrospective review of patients admitted to the medical service at our tertiary care center to define how common the at-risk medical patient is and to evaluate and improve prophylaxis rates in this patient group. The study was conducted in two phases. Based on admission characteristics, patients were stratified into high-risk or low-risk groups for the development of VTE. During the pre-intervention phase, 75% of patients admitted to the medical service were characterized as increased risk for VTE, yet only 43% of these high-risk patients received prophylaxis of any sort. After interventions designed to increase awareness of VTE, we conducted a second review period. In this post-intervention phase, where 79% of patients were at risk for VTE, prophylaxis rates improved to 72%. Based on these results, we conclude that the majority of patients admitted to the medical service at our tertiary care center constitute a high-risk population that warrants consideration for VTE prophylaxis. Implementation of strategies to improve prophylaxis rates, including educational sessions and risk stratification guidelines, can be successful and improve identification and prophylaxis of this population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Critical Care / standards*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Thromboembolism / epidemiology
  • Thromboembolism / etiology
  • Thromboembolism / prevention & control*
  • Venous Thrombosis / epidemiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*


  • Anticoagulants