Screening and Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Critically Ill Patients
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RATIONALE: Venous thromboembolism is difficult to diagnose in critically ill patients and may increase morbidity and mortality. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of strategies to reduce morbidity from venous thromboembolism in critically ill patients. METHODS: A Markov decision analytic model to compare weekly compression ultrasound screening (screening) plus investigation for clinically suspected deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (case finding) versus case finding alone; and a hypothetical program to increase adherence to DVT prevention. Probabilities were derived from a systematic review of venous thromboembolism in medical-surgical intensive care unit patients. Costs (in 2010 $US) were obtained from hospitals in Canada, Australia, and the United States, and the medical literature. Analyses were conducted from a societal perspective over a lifetime horizon. Outcomes included costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALY), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: In the base case, the rate of proximal DVT was 85 per 1,000 patients. Screening resulted in three fewer pulmonary emboli than case-finding alone but also two additional bleeding episodes, and cost $223,801 per QALY gained. In sensitivity analyses, screening cost less than $50,000 per QALY only if the probability of proximal DVT increased from a baseline of 8.5-16%. By comparison, increasing adherence to appropriate pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis by 10% resulted in 16 fewer DVTs, one fewer pulmonary emboli, and one additional heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and bleeding event, and cost $27,953 per QALY gained. Programs achieving increased adherence to best-practice venous thromboembolism prevention were cost-effective over a wide range of program costs and were robust in probabilistic sensitivity analyses. CONCLUSIONS: Appropriate prophylaxis provides better value in terms of costs and health gains than routine screening for DVT. Resources should be targeted at optimizing thromboprophylaxis.