Background: The outpatient treatment of patients with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism using low-molecular-weight heparin has the potential to reduce health care costs, but it is unclear if most patients with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism can be treated as outpatients. In the published studies, more than 50% of patients were excluded from outpatient treatment for reasons such as comorbid conditions, short life expectancy, concomitant pulmonary embolism, and previous deep vein thrombosis, and many patients were not treated entirely at home. We sought to determine if expanding patient eligibility for the outpatient treatment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism affects the safety and effectiveness of the treatment, and to determine if patient self-injection compared with injections administered by a homecare nurse affected these outcomes.
Patients and methods: We treated as outpatients all patients with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, except for those with massive pulmonary embolism, high risk for major bleeding or an active bleed, phlegmasia, and patients hospitalized for reasons that prevented discharge. We compared 2 models of outpatient care to determine feasibility, safety, and efficacy. Both models involved nurse managers who provided daily patient contact and ongoing treatment; however, in one model the patients were taught to inject themselves and in the other model homecare nurses administered the injections. We expanded the population of patients eligible for outpatient treatment by including many patients not treated at home in previous studies. Most patients in our study were treated with dalteparin sodium, 200 U/kg every 24 hours, for a minimum of 5 days. Therapy with warfarin sodium was started on the day of diagnosis or the following day. Patients were followed up for 3 months to determine rates of recurrent venous thromboembolism, bleeding, and death.
Results: In this study, 194 (83%) of 233 consecutive patients were deemed eligible and treated as outpatients. Of the 39 patients who did not receive home therapy, 20 had concomitant medical problems responsible for their admission or were already inpatients, 6 had massive pulmonary embolism, 6 refused to pay for the dalteparin therapy, 4 had active bleeding, and 3 had phlegmasia cerulea dolens, which required treatment with intravenous narcotics for pain control. More than 184 (95%) of the 194 patients were treated entirely at home. There was no significant difference (P>.99) in the rate of recurrent venous thromboembolic events between the patients who were injected by homecare nurses (3/95 [3.2%]) and those who injected themselves (4/99 [4.0%]). Combining the 2 models, the overall recurrent event rate was 3.6% (95% confidence interval, 1.5%-7.4%). Similarly, there were no significant differences in rates of major hemorrhage (2/95 vs 2/99; P>.99), minor hemorrhage (8/95 vs 2/99; P = .06), and death (6/95 vs 8/99; P = .63). The overall rate of major hemorrhage was 2.0% (95% confidence interval, 0.6%-5.2%).
Conclusions: We demonstrate that more than 80% of patients at our tertiary care hospital could be treated at home using 1 of the 2 models of care we describe. Our results demonstrate that patients can safely and effectively perform home self-injection under the supervision of a hospital-based nurse. Injections at home by a homecare nurse are similarly effective. Our overall rates of recurrent venous thromboembolism, bleeding, and death are at least as favorable as those previously reported despite using 1 dose per day of dalteparin for most patients.