Simple checklist could save many lives
People who are admitted to hospital should be offered a simple check to see if they are at risk of getting a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis), according to NICE guidance issued in January.
By using the simple checklist, the incidence among UK hospital patients could be reduced by up to a third, saving around 10,000 lives a year.
Deep vein thrombosis happens when a blood clot forms, usually in the leg, and blocks the vein. The clot can break away and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
It is more likely to happen when someone is unwell or less active than usual and each year and around 25,000 people who go into UK hospitals die as a result.
NICE recommends that hospital staff assess every patient's risk before or when they go into hospital - and regularly during their hospital stay.
Our checklist comprises a short set of questions about the person's medical history, general health, age, weight, the reason for their hospital admission and the type of treatment they will have. It also covers any other conditions they have and drugs they are taking.
For some, prevention can begin before they go into hospital. For example, if you're having an operation it may be possible to opt for a ‘regional' rather than a general anaesthetic. In addition, women may be advised to stop taking the combined contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for 4 weeks before their operation.
While in hospital, it is important for patients to keep well-hydrated and to move around as soon as they are able.
Those identified as being at risk may be offered compression stockings or a pumping device worn around the legs or feet to help keep the blood circulating. They may also be offered a drug called heparin, which thins the blood and helps to stop blood clots forming.
Some patients should continue wearing compression stockings or taking their anticoagulant drug for a time after they go home.
Everyone should be offered information on the signs and symptoms of the condition and who to contact if they are concerned.
Paul Mainwaring, a patient representative on the NICE Guideline Development Group which produced the guidance, said: “Developing a DVT can have devastating effects on the individual. I've suffered two DVTs, which has had an enormous impact not only on my life, but my family too.
“I'd urge any patient who is admitted to hospital not to be afraid to ask their doctors and nurses about reducing the risk of blood clots - it could help save their life.”
Venous thromboembolism: reducing the risk of venous thromboembolism (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism) in patients admitted to hospital. NICE clinical guideline 92.
Available from www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG92
This page was last updated: 10 May 2010