Skip Navigation
Search Menu
Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality

In This Section      
Print This Page

Preventing Venous Thromboembolism

Doctor and nurse speaking with patient in a hospital bed

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein—and pulmonary embolism (PE)—a blood clot that travels to the lungs—together comprise the most common preventable cause of hospital-related death. Known together as venous thromboembolism (VTE), they claim more than 100,000 lives a year in the United States.

There is strong evidence that anti-clotting medications and mechanical prophylaxis, such as compression devices, can prevent a majority of blood clots in the hospital. Yet blood clot prevention is truly complicated. Prescribers must tailor prophylaxis to the individual patient, by considering risk factors and contraindications. Studies have found that appropriate prophylaxis is ordered for only 32 percent to 59 percent of patients.  Additionally, an emerging body of research shows that once prophylaxis is ordered, treatments often do not reach patients.

VTE Resources for Hospitals and Patients

Created in 2005, the Johns Hopkins VTE Collaborative has followed a systemic approach to this challenge of translating the evidence about prevention into everyday bedside practice. In these pages you can learn about our experiences and find resources for your health care organization’s own blood clot prevention efforts. You can:

PE graphicClick on the image to view the full size version.

Why Focus on VTE Prevention?

  • VTE is common. There are an estimated 350,000 to 900,000 new cases annually in the United States during or after hospitalization. An additional 1 million estimated VTE cases are not related to hospitalization.
  • VTE is deadly. Patients with a pulmonary embolism, when a blood clot travels to the lungs, have a 30 percent to 60 percent to chance of dying from it. Lower-extremity DVT has a 3 percent mortality rate, associated with blood clots that travel from the legs to the lungs. 
  • VTE is preventable. Best practice prophylaxis reduces VTE incidence by an estimated 70 percent.
  • VTE frequently has complications. As many as 60 percent develop conditions such as postthrombotic syndrome, a long-term complication that causes pain, swelling, discoloration and, in serious cases, ulcers in the affected limbs.
  • VTE is recurrent. Between 10 percent and 30 percent of people who survive an initial VTE develop another one within five years.
  • VTE treatment is costly. Each DVT costs $10,000 and each PE costs $16,000, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.