Back to Journals » Clinical Epidemiology » Volume 4 » Issue 1

Prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism in medical patients: too much or too little?

Authors Christiansen CF

Received 19 September 2012

Accepted for publication 26 October 2012

Published 15 November 2012 Volume 2012:4(1) Pages 315—318


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Christian Fynbo Christiansen

Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

Abstract: Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a potentially serious complication occurring in 1%–2% of hospitalized medical patients. Despite this low absolute risk, as many as 82% of medical patients are considered to be at increased risk of developing VTE and are eligible for medical thromboprophylaxis. In this commentary, The author will discuss the main findings of a recent paper published in Clinical Epidemiology that questions the large proportion of individuals who are eligible for medical thromboprophylaxis, and also discuss the potential implications for the prevention of VTE. The recent paper demonstrated that when a population is divided into high- and low-risk groups, the maximum absolute risk depends on the inverse of the proportion of patients that is considered to be high risk. Consequently, even an effective treatment will only result in a small reduction in the absolute risk when the high-risk group comprises the largest proportion of this population. For medical thromboprophylaxis, this implies that even patients considered to be at high-risk for developing VTE have a maximum absolute VTE risk of 2% when the overall risk is 1.6%. Therefore, even an effective preventive initiative will only result in a small risk reduction. This small potential benefit should be weighed against potential harms associated with prophylaxis, mainly bleeding events. Still, there may be a reasonable overall balance between prevention of pulmonary embolism and major bleeding, mainly because major bleeding events are rare. Nonetheless, this discussion underscores that future risk prediction models should aim to predict the benefits and harms in individual patients in order to provide optimal care for the right patients.

Keywords: comment, epidemiology, prevention, risk factors, venous thromboembolism

Creative Commons License © 2012 The Author(s). This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.