World Thrombosis Day aims to raise awareness about VTE

10 Oct 2014 | Safe Surgery NZ

Claire McLintock, a New Zealand representative on the governing council of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), hopes the organisation’s inaugural World Thrombosis Day will raise awareness of a massive killer she describes as a “poor relation” to some other disorders.

World Thrombosis Day, for which the Health Quality & Safety Commission is partnering with the ISTH, is on Monday 13 October and is targeting both patients and clinicians.

Thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in an artery or vein and is responsible for the world’s top three cardiovascular killers: heart attacks, strokes and venous thromboembolism (VTE).

VTE, the main focus for the first World Thrombosis Day, most commonly occurs as deep venous thrombosis in a leg, but can also lead to a pulmonary embolism (PE) in the lungs, killing some 500,000 people a year in Europe, 25,000 of them in the United Kingdom alone.

Hospital patients are particularly vulnerable, with a person’s risk factor increasing ten-fold on admission. Reduced mobility and poor fluid intake are among contributing factors.

A 2012 Commission-sponsored project to establish a national policy framework for VTE estimated around 2000 patients a year suffered a hospital-associated VTE event in New Zealand, a third of which would be PEs, with some 60 deaths.

“VTE is not particularly sexy,” says ISTH council member Dr Claire McLintock, a haematologist and obstetric physician at National Women’s Health, Auckland City Hospital. “It’s not as attention grabbing as disorders such as cancer and diabetes. But it does have a significant impact and I think that unlike some of those other disorders it’s not actually that difficult to think about what the risks are and reduce them.”

While people have become better educated about thrombosis, says Dr McLintock, “I still think there’s room for improvement, because I think if you ask the public how you are most likely to get a blood clot they probably would say it’s on an airline rather than because you’ve had your hip joint replaced or something like that.”

Raising awareness of VTE, the importance of assessing risk of VTE and then acting on the findings of that assessment is part of the Commission’s reducing perioperative harm programme, with resources on the Commission’s website including posters highlighting the issue for hospital staff and links to a series of filmed lectures at Ko Awatea, the Centre for Health System Innovation and Improvement for Counties Manukau Health.

“In New Zealand, we’ve been really happy that in the DHBs and hospitals across the country there usually is someone who is a VTE, a thrombosis, champion,” says Dr McLintock. “And those people have really taken a lot of interest in the day and are doing various different things, like having a grand round, or setting up an information booth to hand out information to patients about the issue.”

To find out more about World Thrombosis Day and blood clots, visit www.worldthrombosisday.org.

Last updated 10/10/2014