Incidence of venous thromboembolic events not related to vascular catheters in a prospective cohort of critically ill children

Eur J Pediatr. 2022 Aug;181(8):3031-3038. doi: 10.1007/s00431-022-04487-8. Epub 2022 Jun 2.


The risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is considered to be low in the general paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) population, and pharmacological thromboprophylaxis is not routinely used. PICU patients considered at high-risk of VTE could possibly benefit from pharmacological thromboprophylaxis, but the incidence of VTE in this group of patients is unclear. This was an observational, prospective study at a tertiary multi-disciplinary paediatric hospital. We used comprehensive ultrasonography screening for VTE in critically ill children with multiple risk factors for VTE. Patients admitted to PICU ≥ 72 h and with ≥ two risk factors for VTE were included. Patients receiving pharmacological thromboprophylaxis during their entire PICU stay were excluded. The primary outcome of the study was VTEs not related to the use of a CVC. Ultrasonography screening of the great veins was performed at PICU discharge. Seventy patients with median (interquartile range) 3 (2-4) risk factors for VTE were evaluated. Median age was 0.3 years (0.03-4.3) and median PICU length of stay 9 days (5-17). Regarding the primary outcome, no symptomatic VTEs occurred and no asymptomatic VTEs were found on ultrasonography screening, resulting in an incidence of VTEs not related to a vascular catheter of 0% (95% CI: 0-5.1%).

Conclusion: Our results indicate that VTEs not related to a vascular catheter are a rare event even in a selected group of severely ill small children considered to be at high risk of VTE.

What is known: • Children in the PICU often have several risk factors for venous thromboembolism (VTE). • The incidence of VTE in PICU patients is highly uncertain, and there are no evidence-based guidelines regarding VTE prophylaxis.

What is new: • This study found an incidence of VTEs not related to a vascular catheter of 0% (95% CI: 0-5.1%). • This indicates that such VTE events are rare even in PICU patients with multiple risk factors for VTE.

Keywords: Clinical study; Critical care; Heparin; Paediatrics; Venous thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Vascular Access Devices* / adverse effects
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / diagnostic imaging
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / epidemiology
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / etiology
  • Venous Thrombosis* / etiology


  • Anticoagulants