Venous Thromboembolism Prevention in Emergency General Surgery: A Review

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Abstract

Importance

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in US hospitals, and approximately 2.5% of emergency general surgery (EGS) patients will be diagnosed with a VTE event. Emergency general surgery patients are at increased risk of morbidity and mortality because of the nature of acute surgical conditions and the challenges related to prophylaxis.

Observations

MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Database of Collected Reviews were searched from January 1, 1990, through December 31, 2015. Nearly all operatively and nonoperatively treated EGS patients have a moderate to high risk of developing a VTE, and individual risk should be assessed at admission. Pharmacologic prophylaxis in the form of unfractionated or low-molecular-weight heparin should be considered unless an absolute contraindication, such as bleeding, exists. Patients should receive the first dose at admission to the hospital, and administration should continue until discharge without missed doses. Certain patient populations, such as those with malignant tumors, may benefit from prolonged VTE prophylaxis after discharge. Mechanical prophylaxis should be considered in all patients, particularly if pharmacologic prophylaxis is contraindicated. Studies that specifically target improved adherence with VTE prophylaxis in EGS patients suggest that efficacy and quality improvement initiatives should be undertaken from a system and institutional perspective.

Conclusions and Relevance

Operatively and nonoperatively treated EGS patients are at a comparatively high risk of VTE. Despite gaps in existing literature with respect to this increasing patient population, successful best practices can be applied. Best practices include assessment of VTE risk, optimal prophylaxis, and physician, nurse, and patient education regarding the use of mechanical and pharmacologic VTE prophylaxis and institutional policies.

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