Venous thromboembolism risk and prophylaxis prescription in surgical patients at a tertiary hospital in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

W D Rocher, T Page, M Rocher, D Nel


Background. Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a common complication during and after hospitalisation, and is regarded as the most common cause of preventable death in hospitalised patients worldwide. Despite its importance, there are few data on VTE risk and adherence to prophylaxis prescription guidelines in surgical patients from the South African (SA) public sector, especially from low-resource environments such as Eastern Cape Province.

Objectives. To evaluate the risk and prescription of VTE prophylaxis to surgical patients at a tertiary government hospital in the Eastern Cape.

Methods. A cross-sectional clinical audit of general surgical inpatients was performed on two dates during July and August 2017. Patients’ VTE risk was calculated by using the Caprini risk assessment model (RAM) and thromboprophylaxis prescription evaluated accordingly.

Results. A total of 179 patients were included in the study, of whom 56% were male and 44% female. The average age was 45 (range 18 - 83) years. Of the total number of participants, 33% were elective cases and 67% were emergency admissions. With application of RAM, 77% of patients were at risk of VTE (Caprini score ≥2), with 81% of elective and 74% of emergency patients being at risk. The most prevalent risk factors for VTE were major surgery (34%), age 41 - 60 years (30%), age 61 - 74 years (20%) and sepsis during the previous month (27%). A contraindication to chemoprophylaxis was recorded in 30% of patients, with the most prevalent being renal dysfunction (40%), peptic ulcer disease (34%), active bleeding (17%), liver dysfunction (17%), coagulopathy (6%) and recent cerebral haemorrhage (6%). With regard to VTE risk profile and contraindications to chemoprophylaxis, the correct thromboprophylactic treatment was prescribed to 26% of at-risk patients, with 21% of elective and 27% of emergency admission patients receiving the correct therapy.

Conclusions. Despite a high proportion of patients being at risk of VTE, the rate of adequate thromboprophylaxis prescription for surgical inpatients at Frere Hospital, East London, SA is very low. Increased availability of mechanical prophylaxis, as well as interventions to improve the rate of adequate prophylaxis prescription, needs to be evaluated for feasibility and effect in this hospital and other SA public hospitals.

Authors' affiliations

W D Rocher, Department of Surgery, Frere Hospital, East London Hospital Complex, South Africa

T Page, Department of Surgery, Frere Hospital, East London Hospital Complex, South Africa

M Rocher, Department of Surgery, Frere Hospital, East London Hospital Complex, South Africa

D Nel, Department of General Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Surgery; South Africa; Tertiary hospital; Venous thromboembolism; Prophylaxis

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(3):178-181. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i3.13510

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-02-26
Date published: 2019-02-26

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