Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis in hospitalized patients: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2011 Nov 1;155(9):625-32. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-155-9-201111010-00011.


Description: The American College of Physicians (ACP) developed this guideline to present the evidence and provide clinical recommendations on prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism for hospitalized nonsurgical patients (medical patients and patients with acute stroke).

Methods: This guideline is based on published literature on the topic from 1950 through April 2011 that was identified by using MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, and reference lists of pertinent randomized trials and systematic reviews to identify additional reports. Searches were limited to randomized trials and English-language publications. The primary outcome for this guideline was total mortality up to 120 days after randomization. Secondary outcomes included symptomatic deep venous thrombosis; all pulmonary embolisms; fatal pulmonary embolism; all bleeding events; major bleeding events; and, for mechanical prophylaxis, effects on skin. This guideline grades the evidence and recommendations by using the ACP's clinical practice guidelines grading system.

Recommendation 1: ACP recommends assessment of the risk for thromboembolism and bleeding in medical (including stroke) patients prior to initiation of prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism (Grade: strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence).

Recommendation 2: ACP recommends pharmacologic prophylaxis with heparin or a related drug for venous thromboembolism in medical (including stroke) patients unless the assessed risk for bleeding outweighs the likely benefits (Grade: strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence).

Recommendation 3: ACP recommends against the use of mechanical prophylaxis with graduated compression stockings for prevention of venous thromboembolism (Grade: strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence).

Policy implication: ACP does not support the application of performance measures in medical (including stroke) patients that promotes universal venous thromboembolism prophylaxis regardless of risk.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Heparin / administration & dosage
  • Heparin / adverse effects
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Embolism / mortality
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stockings, Compression
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Venous Thromboembolism / prevention & control*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin