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Keywords:

  • venous thromboembolism;
  • clincial practice guideline;
  • risk assessment

Abstract

Each year in Australia, about 1 in 1000 people develop a first episode of venous thromboembolism (VTE), which approximates to about 20 000 cases. More than half of these episodes occur during or soon after a hospital admission, which makes them potentially preventable. This paper summarises recommendations from the National Health and Medical Research Council's ‘Clinical Practice Guideline for the Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Patients Admitted to Australian Hospitals’ and describes the way these recommendations were developed. The guideline has two aims: to provide advice on VTE prevention to Australian clinicians and to support implementation of effective programmes for VTE prevention in Australian hospitals by offering evidence-based recommendations which local hospital guidelines can be based on. Methods for preventing VTE are pharmacological and/or mechanical, and they require appropriate timing, dosing and duration and also need to be accompanied by good clinical care, such as promoting mobility and hydration whilst in hospital. With some procedures or injuries, the risk of VTE is sufficiently high to require that all patients receive an effective form of prophylaxis unless this is contraindicated; in other clinical settings, the need for prophylaxis requires individual assessment. For optimal VTE prevention, all patients admitted to hospital should have early and formal assessments of: (i) their intrinsic VTE risk and the risks related to their medical conditions; (ii) the added VTE risks resulting from surgery or trauma; (iii) bleeding risks that would contraindicate pharmacological prophylaxis; (iv) any contraindications to mechanical prophylaxis, culminating in (v) a decision about prophylaxis (pharmacological and/or mechanical, or none). The most appropriate form of prophylaxis will depend on the type of surgery, medical condition and patient characteristics. Recommendations for various clinical circumstances are provided as summary tables with relevance to orthopaedic surgical procedures, other types of surgery and medical inpatients. In addition, the tables indicate the grades of supporting evidence for the recommendations (these range from Grade A which can be trusted to guide practice, to Grade D where there is more uncertainty; Good Practice Points are consensus-based expert opinions).