Deep vein thrombosis: risk factors and prevention in surgical patients

West Afr J Med. 2009 Mar;28(2):77-82. doi: 10.4314/wajm.v28i2.48431.


Background: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in hospitalized surgical patients. The occurrence of the disease is related to presence of risk factors, which are related primarily to trauma, venous stasis and hyper-coagulability. DVT seems not to be taken seriously by many surgeons in Nigeria. This is despite comprehensive studies that show no real differences in racial demography of the disease.

Objective: To highlight the importance of physician awareness about DVT especially its risks and prevention methods.

Methods: A detailed literature search was completed to extrapolate articles that described DVT risks and prevention. This involved hand and online searches. Specific search terms used included DVT/risk factors/prevention. The searches generated 468 papers. Of these 57 papers were included in the review.

Results: Predominant risk factors for DVT include middle or old age, prolonged surgery, trauma, confinement, presence of malignancy and insertion of deep venous catheters. In women, contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy and the puepernum are a additional risk factors. Prophylactic measures include those directed at eliminating venous stasis and those directed at changes in blood coagulability.

Conclusion: Deep Venous Thrombosis is a common disease with fatal and serious long term burdensome complications. We must target primary and secondary prophylaxis to improve survival and reduce morbidity from this preventable disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Awareness
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Dextrans / therapeutic use
  • Dihydroergotamine / therapeutic use
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Nigeria
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*
  • Warfarin / therapeutic use


  • Anticoagulants
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Dextrans
  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Dihydroergotamine
  • Warfarin
  • Heparin
  • Aspirin