What is Venous Thromboembolism? Venous thromboembolism, or VTE, is a term used to describe the blocking of a blood vessel by a blood clot. VTE can be a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a pulmonary embolism (PE). DVT occurs when a blood clot blocks a deep vein, usually in the leg. PE is a potentially life-threatening complication and occurs when the blood clot escapes into the circulation and becomes lodged in the lungs. Both of these events are commonly associated with surgery, but can also occur in hospitalized medical patients due to long periods of time when patients are unable to walk or move as a result of their underlying illnesses.
Most hospitalized patients have one or more risk factors for the development of a VTE. Risk factors are things such as a patient's age, level of activity, being overweight, having a previous VTE, any health issues they may have, and the patient's present condition. Based on these things, patients fall into the following groups - low risk, moderate risk, high risk, or very high risk. Because having a VTE is a major concern among medical or general surgical patients, it is important to give the right care to patients to help prevent VTEs; this is called prophylaxis (pro-fill-axis). Without prophylaxis, the incidence of hospital-acquired DVT is approximately 10-40% among medical or general surgical patients and 40-60% following major orthopedic surgery.
Types of prophylaxis include medications, such low molecular weight heparin, or mechanical methods, such as compression boots.