Background Acutely ill medical patients with heart failure have an increased risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) and expert consensus guidelines recommend that they should receive VTE prophylaxis. However, little data is available on physician’s practices for providing prophylaxis to these patients. Our aim was to characterize VTE prophylaxis practices in acutely ill hospitalized medical patients with heart failure (NYHA class III or IV) enrolled in the International Medical Prevention Registry on Venous Thromboembolism (IMPROVE).
Methods Patient recruitment began in July 2002. Patients aged ≥ 18 years and hospitalized for ≥ 3 days with an acute medical illness are enrolled consecutively. Exclusion criteria are: therapeutic antithrombotic agents or thrombolytics at admission, major surgery or trauma during 3 months prior to admission, and VTE treatment within 24 hours of admission.
Results Of 6946 patients enrolled up to 31 March 2005 in 49 hospitals in 12 countries, 784 (11%) were heart failure patients. Compared with patients without heart failure, patients with heart failure were more likely to be in an ICU/CCU (13% vs 8%), immobile ≥ 4days (50% vs 30%), over 60 years old (85% vs 61%), perceived to be obese (20% vs 13%), or have respiratory failure (27% vs 17%; p<0.0001 for all). In total, only 51% of heart failure patients received pharmacologic prophylaxis and 61% received any type of prophylaxis. Pharmacologic prophylaxis type varied by region with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) used less often, and unfractionated heparin (UFH) used more often in the USA compared with other participating countries (see Table). Aspirin and warfarin were used as VTE prophylaxis in 6% and 3% of heart failure patients, respectively. Intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) was used more often in the USA than in other countries (24% vs 0.2%).
Conclusions Although acutely ill medical patients with heart failure are at risk of VTE and should receive prophylaxis, only 61% of these patients in IMPROVE actually received any type of prophylaxis. This reflects poor physician-awareness of the benefits of prophylaxis in this patient group and suggests that significant opportunity exists to improve physician practices.
Table. VTE prophylaxis in acutely ill medical patients with heart failure VTE prophylaxis (% patients) USA Other participating countries LMWH 15 46 UFH 27 13 Aspirin 8 4 Warfarin 5 1 Any pharmacologic prophylaxis 43 56 IPC 24 0.2 Elastic stockings 6 7