Thromboembolism prophylaxis in high-risk critically ill patients

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This review discusses observational studies identifying patients at risk of thromboprophylaxis failure and critiques clinical studies evaluating novel thromboprophylaxis strategies in high-risk, critically ill patients with a focus on their limitations” Lewis et al (2018).

Abstract:

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a major health concern associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Critically ill patients are at an increased risk of VTE compared to general medical patients due to unique risk factors: prolonged immobilization, invasive lines and devices, certain medications, and acquired thrombophilia. Furthermore, VTE in the critically ill is associated with increased duration of mechanical ventilation, increased length of intensive care unit and hospital stay, and a trend toward increased mortality. Clinical practice guidelines therefore recommend VTE prophylaxis with either subcutaneous heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin for all critically ill patients without contraindication. Yet, many patients will develop VTE despite appropriate pharmacologic prophylaxis, which has led to interest in risk-stratifying critically ill patients for more aggressive prophylaxis strategies. Recent research identified patients at highest risk of failure of thromboprophylaxis and provided insight into the pathophysiologic mechanisms. Obesity and the receipt of vasopressors are 2 risk factors consistently identified in observational studies; further clinical data support decreased absorption of anticoagulant administered via the subcutaneous route as the likely mechanism behind thromboprophylaxis failure in these patient populations. Several studies have investigated novel thromboprophylaxis strategies to circumvent pharmacokinetic limitations in patients who are obese or on vasopressors: increased fixed-dose, weight-based subcutaneous, or continuous intravenous infusion of a prophylactic dose of anticoagulant has shown promise in limited studies; however, the results have yet to demonstrate superiority compared to current standard-of-care. This review discusses observational studies identifying patients at risk of thromboprophylaxis failure and critiques clinical studies evaluating novel thromboprophylaxis strategies in high-risk, critically ill patients with a focus on their limitations. Future studies are currently being conducted that will provide further guidance into the appropriate use of individualized thromboprophylaxis.

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Reference:

Lewis, T.C., Cortes, J., Altshuler, D. and Papadopoulos, J. (2018) Venous Thromboembolism Prophylaxis: A Narrative Review With a Focus on the High-Risk Critically Ill Patient. Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. August 30th. .

doi: 10.1177/0885066618796486.

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