Surgeon General galvanizes industry for deep vein thrombosis prevention

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Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, MD, has issued a ‘call to action’ to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). 

“DVT and PE are often referred to as ‘silent’ conditions,” Galson said. Although gains have been made in understanding how these dangerous clots develop and how to prevent, diagnose and treat them, that knowledge is not always applied systematically, he added.

The conditions generally keep a low profile, but they hit the headlines when they strike young, seemingly healthy individuals. The two conditions may contribute to as many as 100,000 deaths each year, Galson reported. The number is expected to rise as the population ages because patients older than 50 are at increased risk.

“It is clear that we are dealing with a major health problem,” noted Elizabeth Nabel, MD, director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

The call also is intended to spell out certain warning signs to the primary care physician, who is often the first to detect a clot, Nabel said.

To speed recognition of these conditions, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published a 12-page patient guide and a 60-page physician guide on preventing and treating dangerous blood clots, said AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, MD. “We know how to prevent many of these dangerous blood clots, and these guides will help patients and clinicians put that knowledge to work to improve care,” Clancy said.

The clinician guide, "Preventing Hospital-Acquired Venous Thromboembolism: A Guide for Effective Quality Improvement," is intended to help hospitals and clinicians implement successful processes to prevent dangerous blood clots, Clancy said. “It identifies such clots as the "most common, preventable cause of hospital deaths.”