An article published in the May issue of the British Medical Journal reports that  each year 25,000 people in the United Kingdom die from blood clots called venous thromboembolisms (VTEs).

According to the article, the condition accounts for 10% of all hospital deaths—10 times greater than the number of deaths caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and five times as much as breast cancer, AIDS, and road traffic accidents combined. Patients who recently have had surgery are particularly at risk.

Trials show that drugs can reduce the rate of VTE by up to 70%. However,  a Health Select Committee report in 2005 shows that only one in five patients at risk were taking them.

The committee instructed the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to produce guidelines and called for an expert working group to develop a strategy and report back to the chief medical officer.

The group’s report and the chief medical officer recommended that every adult have a mandatory VTE risk assessment on admission to a hospital and that core standards be set to ensure full compliance with these assessments. Despite the huge evidence base for preventative treatment, it remains poorly implemented in Britain.

A combination of factors may be responsible for VTE, according to the report. Some factors include a health professional’s lack of awareness (because of poor education) and discharge from hospital. Medication costs may also be a barrier.

Look for an article on deep venous thrombosis—a form of VTE—by Loren S. Schechter, MD, FACS, in the June issue of PSP.

[www.newswise.com, May 17, 2007]