Venous thromboembolism (VTE) comprises both deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). DVT occurs when a blood clot forms inside a vein deep in the leg, causing leg pain and swelling. A blood clot in a leg vein can grow, break off, and travel to the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath, chest pain, and, in some cases, death. Clots that travel to the lungs are called pulmonary emboli.
Almost all hospitalized patients are at risk for VTE, and many have multiple risk factors. VTE is one of the most common and preventable complications of hospitalization, and Accreditation Canada has a defined required organizational practice (ROP) for VTE. The rate of hospital-acquired VTE, if a thromboprophylaxis is not used, is 10–40% after general surgery and 40–60% after hip surgery.
Hospital-acquired VTE can result in symptomatic DVT or PE, fatal PE, prolonged hospital stay or readmission, harm of therapeutic anticoagulation, patient anxiety, additional costs to diagnose and treat, and further consequences.
You can take action to reduce incidents of VTE by following eight key steps:
- Secure senior leadership commitment
- Form a VTE prophylaxis team or teams
- Define the problem and set aims
- Map out project timelines and accountabilities
- Collect baseline data
- Introduce methods to optimize adherence
- Collect and submit data
- Review results and revise implementation strategies if necessary
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