Hospital-Acquired VTE Still a Leading Cause of Death

Cheryl Clark, June 21, 2012

Blood clot case counts astonish, and make other adverse events in hospitals pale by comparison. And although a few hospitals are getting better at recognizing the problem, the numbers aren't going down, as two reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

These official reviews of the issue force me to think of these tragedies in a most personal way, because they remind me of the death of my mother, a victim of a pulmonary embolism one week after her first dose of chemotherapy 11 years ago. As she waited in the hospital infusion center for her second dose of chemo, she suddenly couldn't breathe, and suffered a respiratory arrest.

Here are the grim numbers. According to Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, each year between 2007 and 2009 in the U.S

  • 547,596 hospitalized patients developed blood clots, or venous thromboembolism (VTE)
  • 348,558 were deep vein thromboses (DVT)
  • 277,549 were pulmonary emboli (PE)

The incidence may be much higher. One estimate puts the number at 900,000 cases and 300,000 deaths," almost all of which are attributable to PE...either among the top five or top three causes of death in the United States." Those figures come from a University of Oklahoma VTE expert who was quoted in another CDC report last August.

About 1.1% of all patients who undergo surgery develop a VTE, or about 100,000 cases a year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The CDC can't estimate how many VTE cases are hospital-acquired, usually defined as occurring in the hospital or within 90 days of hospital discharge. But at least one-third of all VTEs that occur in hospitalized patients are preventable, says Scott Grosse, the CDC's Associate Director for Health Services Research and Evaluation in an interview. HHS estimates that at least 40% of those VTEs that hospitals don't already catch could be prevented with more aggressive efforts.


Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
Twitter icon