Using multiple sources of data for surveillance of postoperative venous thromboembolism among surgical patients treated in Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, 2005-2010

Thromb Res. 2015 Apr;135(4):636-42. doi: 10.1016/j.thromres.2015.01.026. Epub 2015 Jan 26.


Background: There are limitations to using administrative data to identify postoperative venous thromboembolism (VTE). We used a novel approach to quantify postoperative VTE events among Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) surgical patients during 2005-2010.

Methods: We used VA administrative data to exclude patients with VTE during 12 months prior to surgery. We identified probable postoperative VTE events within 30 and 90 days post-surgery in three settings: 1) pre-discharge inpatient, using a VTE diagnosis code and a pharmacy record for anticoagulation; 2) post-discharge inpatient, using a VTE diagnosis code followed by a pharmacy record for anticoagulation within 7 days; and 3) outpatient, using a VTE diagnosis code and either anticoagulation or a therapeutic procedure code with natural language processing (NLP) to confirm acute VTE in clinical notes.

Results: Among 468,515 surgeries without prior VTE, probable VTEs were documented within 30 and 90 days in 3,931 (0.8%) and 5,904 (1.3%), respectively. Of probable VTEs within 30 or 90 days post-surgery, 47.8% and 62.9%, respectively, were diagnosed post-discharge. Among post-discharge VTE diagnoses, 86% resulted in a VA hospital readmission. Fewer than 25% of outpatient records with both VTE diagnoses and anticoagulation prescriptions were confirmed by NLP as acute VTE events.

Conclusion: More than half of postoperative VTE events were diagnosed post-discharge; analyses of surgical discharge records are inadequate to identify postoperative VTE. The NLP results demonstrate that the combination of VTE diagnoses and anticoagulation prescriptions in outpatient administrative records cannot be used to validly identify postoperative VTE events.

Keywords: Deep vein thrombosis; Pulmonary embolism; Surgery; Venous thromboembolism; Veterans.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • History, 21st Century
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Period
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics as Topic / methods*
  • United States
  • Venous Thromboembolism / epidemiology
  • Veterans