Venothromboembolic Event (VTE):


Deep vein thrombosis (often called DVT) is a common and potentially life-threatening complication that can affect any immobilized patient. "Thrombosis" means blood clot. A DVT is a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg or groin. While these can be painful and cause swelling in the leg below the clot, the most serious complication of DVT is a pulmonary embolism. "Embolus" means to travel. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that travels into the blood vessels of the lung. The clot blocks off the circulation and prevents oxygen from entering the blood stream. DVT can break apart and cause pulmonary embolism. Collectively, any condition that causes clot formation in a vein that has the potential to embolize (travel in the blood vessels) if referred to as Venothromboembolic (VTE) events.

To prevent VTE and pulmonary embolism, patients in critical care are often place on a low dose of an anticoagulant (blood thinner). Heparin or other anticoagulants are injected under the skin to prevent clots from developing. You may notice small bruising on the patients arms, legs or abdomen from the injections.

Most patients will also have white, elastic stocking on their legs. These stockings are called Thrombo-Embolic-Deterrent stockings. Most people refer to them as "TED stockings". The patient is fitted for these stockings to get the correct size. The stocking compresses the leg in a graduated fashion to increase the return of blood up the leg veins (Image 1).

If patients are at very high risk or are unable to take an anticoagulant, they may also have Sequential Compression Devices (SCDs) applied to the leg. These air-filled sleeves are placed over the leg and connected to a pump. The pump with gradually and in sequence, inflate the sleeves from the ankle to the thigh to promote the return of blood up the legs (Image 2).


Image 1: TED stockings


Image 2: Sequential Compression Device (SCDs)






Last Updated: October 23, 2014