Joseph A. Caprini, MD, FACS, RVT, DFSVS, is succinct in explaining why you must make DVT prevention a priority. “The leading cause of death after surgery or hospitalization is pulmonary embolism,” says Dr. Caprini, a senior clinician educator at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, emeritus physician at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill., and the creator of the Caprini Risk Assessment Score for Thromboembolism and DVT (osmag.net/capriniscore). “That’s what DVT prevention is all about.”
Jeremy Podolnick, MD, an assistant professor of surgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, puts the effects of DVT into a concerning perspective. “Complications from DVT kill more people every year than breast cancer, motor vehicle accidents and HIV combined,” he says. “Even though it doesn’t get as much attention as some of those issues, DVT complications can be quite significant.”
DVT occurs when blood clots form in a vein, typically in the leg. Clots that break free and travel to the lungs could cause a pulmonary embolism that has fatal consequences. What’s worse, DVT is a particularly pernicious condition because its classic symptoms (chest or lung pain, shortness of breath) often don’t occur until after the patient has been discharged. Plus, there’s a common misconception that patients who undergo outpatient procedures — particularly young, healthy individuals — are at low risk for DVT.
DVT can happen to anybody. Even the healthiest people can develop it.
— Jeremy Podolnick, MD
“Minor procedures such as arthroscopies, appendectomies and cholecystectomies may be low-risk procedures from the surgical standpoint, but if the patient has several risk factors for DVT, they could actually be more dangerous than a high-risk procedure,” says Dr. Caprini.
It’s up to your care team to determine how many risk factors a patient presents with, and provide the appropriate preemptive measures to prevent DVT from occurring.