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Venous Thromboembolism | Overview

A venous thromboembolism (VTE) occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein in the body. These can sometimes travel to the lungs or cause other complications. While VTE can occur outside of the hospital, certain patients admitted to the hospital may be at increased risk for VTE due to the particular procedure and/or medical condition.

In order to prevent VTE, we use several strategies following identification of high risk patients. These patients are encouraged to walk to increase blood flow, may wear compression stockings, or receive a medication often referred to as a “blood thinner.” We track when VTE occur in hospitalized patients and analyze each case for opportunities to improve.

How are we doing?

For patients admitted to the hospital, we track the number of VTE that occur, including pulmonary embolism (migration to the lungs) and clots (thrombosis) in deep veins (DVT). Tracking the number of VTE in this way helps us measure the effectiveness of our efforts to reduce VTE events. In April 2012, we improved our process for identifying and verifying VTE, using stricter definitions of these events, to make sure our data is accurate. Through increased awareness, screening and reporting we are detecting more events through 2018.

Boston Children's VTE Rate

(Last updated: January 2019)

As you can see in the graph, we consistently have low frequency of VTE. Our goal, however, is to further reduce, or even eliminate, VTE among our patients.

What are we doing to improve?

We track VTE events that occur in the hospital, and these data are reviewed by a committee of doctors, nurses, and administrators who recommend and implement changes to prevent similar events from occurring again. These efforts have increased our awareness of VTE risk and changed our culture around VTE education. Initially, we focused on patients in the intensive care units and are now expanding to other units throughout the hospital. Standard VTE prevention strategies include identifying patients at risk for VTE and using measures to reduce this risk, such as encouraging walking, wearing compression stockings to increase circulation, and use of blood thinners.

How do we collaborate with other hospitals to improve patient safety?

We submit our VTE data monthly to the Children's Hospitals' Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS) national collaborative. More than 100 hospitals from around the United States participate in this network that tracks hospital-acquired conditions to share best practices regarding patient safety. The goal is not to compare performance, but to learn from each other and reduce serious harm across all hospitals.

How can I learn more?

For more information, visit our Thrombosis and Anticoagulation Program page.