Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) Prophylaxis


Article Author:
Madhu Badireddy


Article Editor:
Vasudeva Ranjit Mudipalli


Editors In Chief:
Chaddie Doerr


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Steve Bhimji
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Tehmina Warsi


Updated:
6/22/2019 12:57:14 PM

Introduction

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation or presence of a thrombus in the deep veins. DVT occurs mostly in the lower extremities and to a lesser extent in the upper extremities. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is an obstruction of the pulmonary artery or its branches by a thrombus (sometimes due to fat or air). The most likely source of thrombus in pulmonary arteries is an embolization from deep veins of the legs. This occurs in one-third of patients with DVT. Prevention of DVT thereby decreases the incidence of PE, a serious and life-threatening condition.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) includes DVT and PE. DVT is a major preventable cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. DVT and PE account for 60,000 to 100,000 deaths annually in the United States.[1]

Normally, there is a balance of procoagulant and anticoagulant factors in the blood that prevents thrombus formation intravascularly. One or more factors of the triad of Virchow can lead to the formation of DVT.

Triad of Virchow

  1. Venous stasis (for example, immobility and congestive heart failure [CHF])
  2. Endothelial injury (for example, surgery and trauma)
  3. Hypercoagulability (for example,  OCP, cancer, thrombophilia) 

Venous stasis is the most the important factor, but the presence of endothelial injury and/or hypercoagulability increases the risk of DVT. Hospitalized patients are at risk of venous stasis and with the presence of other factors, they are at increased risk of DVT when compared to patients in the community.

DVT prophylaxis methods target either venous stasis (mechanical methods) or hypercoagulability (pharmacological prophylaxis).

Hospitalized patients are at increased risk of developing DVT (approximately 50%), and this increases the risk of PE. PE is one of the most common, but preventable, causes of death in hospitalized patients.[2]

Only 50% of the hospitalized patients receive DVT prophylaxis. Prevention of DVT in hospitalized patients decreases the risk of DVT and PE, which in turn decreases mortality and morbidity.

DVT prophylaxis can be primary or secondary. Primary prophylaxis is the preferred method with the use of medications and mechanical methods to prevent DVT. Secondary prophylaxis is a less commonly used method that includes early detection with screening methods and the treatment of subclinical DVT.

Anatomy

Deep Veins of Lower Extremities

  • Common femoral vein
  • Deep femoral vein
  • Superficial femoral vein
  • Popliteal vein
  • Anterior tibial vein
  • Posterior tibial vein
  • Peroneal vein 

Deep Veins of Upper Extremities

  • Paired radial vein
  • Paired ulnar vein
  • Interosseous vein
  • Brachial vein
  • Axillary vein
  • Subclavian vein 

Indications

DVT Prophylaxis in Medical Patients

Hospitalized patients are at increased risk of VTE when compared to patients in the community. It is very important to consider DVT prophylaxis in every hospitalized patient. Full history and physical examination are warranted to assess the risk of VTE and bleeding.

Patients with Increased Thrombosis Risk[2]

  • Elderly (older than 70)
  • Immobile patients
  • History of DVT/PE
  • Critical ill patients admitted to intensive care unit (ICU)
  • Stroke with lower extremity paralysis
  • Advanced congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • Active cancer 
  • Acute respiratory failure
  • Thrombophilia
  • Recent surgery or trauma
  • Obesity
  • Ongoing hormonal therapy

Based on thrombosis risk, patients classified into low risk, moderate risk, and high risk for VTE. 

  1. Low-risk patients: Young patients with no risk factors for VTE. No need for prophylaxis
  2. Moderate-risk patients: With at least 1 risk factors, pharmacological prophylaxis preferred with or without mechanical prophylaxis
  3. High-risk patients: With multiple risk factors, pharmacological prophylaxis preferred with mechanical prophylaxis

Commonly used pharmacological agents for prophylaxis in medical patients are:

  1.  Low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWH)
  2.  Unfractionated heparin (UFH)
  3.  Fondaparinux

LMWH is preferred to UFH due to ease of administration (once daily versus 2 to 3 times per day) and decreased incidence of DVT.[3] 

UFH is used in patients with low GFR.

Mechanical methods are used in patients with moderate to high risk for DVT with a high risk of bleeding.

Patients with active cancer but no additional thrombosis risk factors does not need DVT prophylaxis in the out-patient settings. If they have additional risk factors (do not have a chronic indwelling central venous catheter), then either LMWH or UFH are used.

Long-distance travelers with risk factors for VTE can use properly fitted below-knee graduated compressive devices at 15 to 30 mm Hg of pressure along with frequent ambulation and calf muscle exercises. Pharmacological prophylaxis not recommended.

DVT Prophylaxis in Patients Undergoing Orthopedic Surgeries

Risk of VTE (DVT and PE) is high in patients undergoing major orthopedic surgeries like a knee or hip surgeries.

In patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty and total knee arthroplasty, LMWH, apixaban, and rivaroxaban are used. Fondaparinux, UFH, and warfarin are used if above agents cannot be used or contraindicated.

In patients undergoing hip fracture surgery, LMWH, UFH, and fondaparinux are used for DVT prophylaxis.

Duration

At least 10 to 14 days, preferably 35 days from the day of surgery (especially pts undergoing total hip arthroplasty) in the absence of risk factors for bleeding

LMWH typically started 12 hours before and/or 12 hours after surgery. Rest of the medications are typically started 12 hours postoperatively.

Aspirin alone is not generally recommended for DVT prophylaxis. Aspirin is efficacious when compared to placebo in preventing DVT, but there are no comparison studies done with either UFH or LMWH.[4] Aspirin can be used in hybrid therapy, where other agents are used initially while in the hospital and switched to aspirin at discharge.

Patients with a high risk of bleeding are placed on mechanical prophylaxis unless contraindicated.

Patients undergoing an arthroscopic procedure without a prior history of DVT/PE rarely need DVT prophylaxis.

Patients undergoing isolated lower extremity orthopedic surgery requiring immobilization do not require DVT prophylaxis as long as they can ambulate early and adequately.

DVT Prophylaxis in Patients Undergoing Non-Orthopedic Surgeries

VTE risk is based on the type of surgery and underlying patient's risk factors. Major surgeries are categorized as moderate to high risk for VTE and need DVT prophylaxis. When in doubt about the risk of VTE, modified Caprini risk assessment score can be used. This tool scores risk factors from 1 to 5. Based on this assessment score, a patient undergoing surgery can be categorized as below.

Very low-risk patients: No DVT prophylaxis needed

Low risk: Mechanical methods preferred

Moderate to high-risk patients: Pharmacological agents used with or without mechanical methods

LMWH is preferred but UFH used in patients with renal insufficiency. Fondaparinux is used in patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. Other agents are typically not used for DVT prophylaxis.

Duration of DVT prophylaxis is typically for a few days or until patients can ambulate or discharge from the hospital. Prolonged duration of prophylaxis even after discharge from the hospital is not typically recommended.

In patients undergoing abdominal or pelvic surgery for cancer and with a low risk of bleeding, pharmacological prophylaxis is extended to a total of 4 weeks.

Pharmacological Agents

  • Low-molecular-weight heparin: Enoxaparin, 40 mg subcutaneously once daily or dalteparin, 5000 units subcutaneously once daily
  • Unfractionated heparin: 5000 units subcutaneously every 8 to 12 hours
  • Fondaparinux: 2.5 mg subcutaneously daily
  • Direct oral anticoagulants: Betrixaban or rivaroxaban
  • Warfarin

Mechanical Agents

  • Intermittent pneumatic compressions (IPC),
  • Graduated compression stockings (GCS) and
  • Venous foot pump.

Contraindications

Contraindications for pharmacological DVT prophylaxis include:

  • Active bleeding or recent bleeding or high risk for bleeding (active PUD)
  • Patients with coagulopathy (INR greater than 1.5)
  • Planned surgical procedure in the next 6 to 12 hours
  • Thrombocytopenia (Less than 50,000 sometimes less than 100,000).
  • Bleeding disorders

 Contraindications for mechanical prophylaxis include:

  • Limb ischemia due to peripheral vascular disease
  • Skin breakdown

Complications

Failure to prevent DVT in hospitalized patients increases the risk of forming DVT. Complications of DVT include:

Pulmonary Embolism

This can occur in one-third of patients with DVT. Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. Even when treated, patient's can develop pulmonary hypertension.

Post-thrombotic Syndrome

Symptoms include limb swelling, pain, discoloration, itching, and ulcer formation

Clinical Significance

DVT increase the risk of pulmonary embolism by 50% and also leads to the post-thrombotic syndrome. Using DVT prophylaxis in hospitalized patients decrease the risk of DVT anywhere from 10% to 80%. DVT prophylaxis decreases the risk of DVT/PE in both hospitalized medical and surgical patients. However, mortality benefits have been reported in surgical patients but not in medical patients.[5]

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Interprofessional teamwork is very important in preventing DVT in hospitalized patients. Good interprofessional communication between attending physician, surgeon (in surgical patients), and nursing staff is vital in using appropriate prophylaxis method. All hospitals should have a formal strategy that increases compliance with use of DVT prophylaxis.


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Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) Prophylaxis - Questions

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Which of the following conditions does not require DVT prophylaxis?



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To protect against deep vein thrombosis, heparin prophylaxis should be started at what dose?



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A 72-year-old male is admitted to the hospital for elective bowel surgery. The patient claims that his wife died of a pulmonary embolus and it is decided to treat the patient prophylactically to prevent a deep vein thrombosis. Which of the following is the least effective way to prevent a deep vein thrombosis?



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Which of the following is the most effective treatment for preventing postoperative deep vein thrombosis in patients with a low risk of bleeding and no evidence of renal dysfunction?



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Non-pharmacologic DVT prophylaxis is adequate in which group of patients?



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What is the reason for encouraging patients on bed rest to periodically plantar and dorsiflex their ankles?



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Which of the following would be most important in the prevention of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) after abdominal surgery?



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Which of the following surgical patients do not need deep venous thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis?



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A patient undergoes total knee replacement. Select appropriate deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis for this patient.



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An 82 year old female with osteoarthritis and mild COPD falls and has a hip fracture requiring surgery. Which of the following would be appropriate deep venous thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis?



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Which of the following is the least effective method to prevent deep vein thrombosis?



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What should be given to a pregnant woman with a prior history of deep venous thrombosis 4 years earlier?



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Which option would most likely prevent postoperative deep venous thrombosis in a orthopedic patient?



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Nonpharmacologic DVT prophylaxis is adequate in patients status post:



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Bed bound patients are instructed to move their legs while in bed. Why is this done?



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A 72-year-old female with a past medical history significant for diabetes mellitus type 2, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and osteoarthritis admitted for elective left hip replacement. Her postoperative course was uneventful with no bleeding. Her post-op labs revealed mild anemia and normal renal functions. What is the choice and duration of deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis in this patient?



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A 67-year-old female has total hip arthroplasty. Her past medical history is remarkable for well-controlled hypertension and hyperlipidemia. After surgery, she is treated with low molecular weight heparin for deep venous thrombosis prophylaxis. Which complication occurs more often with this treatment as compared to the use of warfarin or direct Xa inhibitors?



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A 69-year-old undergoes elective left hip replacement without any complications. After the surgery, what is minimum time deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis should be maintained?



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A 70-year-old male with a past medical history significant for hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2, chronic kidney disease stage IV, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and colon cancer is admitted for an elective, low anterior resection and colostomy placement. What is the choice and duration of medication for DVT prophylaxis?



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Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) Prophylaxis - References

References

Spyropoulos AC,McGinn T,Khorana AA, The use of weighted and scored risk assessment models for venous thromboembolism. Thrombosis and haemostasis. 2012 Dec     [PubMed]
Alikhan R,Bedenis R,Cohen AT, Heparin for the prevention of venous thromboembolism in acutely ill medical patients (excluding stroke and myocardial infarction). The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2014 May 7     [PubMed]
Karthikeyan G,Eikelboom JW,Turpie AG,Hirsh J, Does acetyl salicylic acid (ASA) have a role in the prevention of venous thromboembolism? British journal of haematology. 2009 Jul     [PubMed]
Stone J,Hangge P,Albadawi H,Wallace A,Shamoun F,Knuttien MG,Naidu S,Oklu R, Deep vein thrombosis: pathogenesis, diagnosis, and medical management. Cardiovascular diagnosis and therapy. 2017 Dec     [PubMed]
Collins R,Scrimgeour A,Yusuf S,Peto R, Reduction in fatal pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis by perioperative administration of subcutaneous heparin. Overview of results of randomized trials in general, orthopedic, and urologic surgery. The New England journal of medicine. 1988 May 5     [PubMed]

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