NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Third Leading Cause of Death Not Being Treated

February 4, 2004

The majority of patients at risk for deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) which can lead to pulmonary embolism (PE), are not receiving preventive treatment, according to researchers.

DVT is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the large veins, causing circulation problems. High-risk groups include elderly hospitalized patients and those who have had recent surgery, cancer or previous blood clots. According to the American Heart Association, DVT occurs in approximately two million people a year. Deep vein clots, often caused by restricted mobility, can migrate to the lungs, blocking the pulmonary artery. PE is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

In their survey of 5,451 people with DVT, researchers found:

  • Seventy-one percent of patients received no prophylaxis, such as the blood thinning drugs unfractionated heparin, low molecular weight heparin or warfarin, within 30 days prior to diagnosis; yet, administration of these medications has been shown to halve the risk of DVT.
  • Surprisingly, 14 percent of parents received vena caval filter implantations, which have been shown to lead to excessive recurrent DVT and rehospitalization rates in patients with filters.

The bottom line, according to the researchers is that every patient admitted to the hospital should be considered at risk for DVT and preventive measures should be considered the standard of care.

Source: Samuel Goldhaber and Victor Tapson, "A Prospective Registry of 5,451 Patients with Ultrasound-Confirmed Deep Vein Thrombosis, American Journal of Cardiology, January 15, 2004.


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