VTE prophylaxis for major abdominal surgery: A hospital audit and nurses' survey for quality improvement

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Natalie Lott
Rosemary Carroll
Jonathon Gani
Stephen Smith


Venous thromboembolism (VTE), Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), Pulmonary Embolism (PE), VTE prophylaxis


Objective: The objective of this study is to assess and improve VTE prophylaxis practices in major abdominal surgery through a hospital audit and nurses' survey.

Primary aims: Evaluate adherence to VTE prophylaxis guidelines in abdominal surgery, identify improvement opportunities in VTE prevention and assess the effectiveness of current prophylactic measures.

Nurses’ survey: Evaluate surgical nurses' knowledge and implementation of VTE prophylaxis and identify educational gaps to improve VTE prevention.

Secondary aims: Integrate audit and survey insights: Gain insight into VTE management practices, to develop quality improvement programs for better prophylaxis and outcomes.

Background: Guidelines for the prevention of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in surgical patients involve risk assessment, followed by chemical and mechanical prophylaxis. Often, VTE risk assessments are not completed which leads to inappropriate or inadequate prophylaxis. The current guidelines suggest that a healthcare provider, such as a nurse or physician, should conduct the VTE risk assessment for each patient.  

Study design and methods: Initially, a prospective audit was conducted to examine VTE prophylaxis practices at a tertiary hospital. This VTE audit was conducted alongside a nurses' survey to assess current VTE prophylaxis practices. Both measures were taken to review the quality of care provided to surgical patients.

Results: The practice of VTE prophylaxis shows high utilisation of all three prophylactic modalities but a lack of risk assessment documentation in the medical records. Nurses, although perceiving it as their responsibility, do not conduct assessments for venous thromboembolism risk.

Conclusion: Based on the audit and survey results, the hospital has not fully adopted the guidelines for venous thromboembolism prophylaxis in major abdominal surgery cases. There is a lack of proper risk assessment documentation, and nurses are not consistently engaged in conducting these.

Implications for research, policy, and practice: This paper presents valuable insights into the current prescribing practices for VTE prophylaxis after major abdominal surgery, as gleaned from a clinical audit and a survey of nurses. The hospital audit indicates that overall, all three are being used, instead of two. While this approach does not contravene current guidelines, the use of both stockings and compression devices is not needed, instead adding new risks, unnecessary nursing workload and financial cost to health services. Further, this approach may prolong recovery with patients unable to mobilise while wearing compression devices to take part in rehabilitation programs.

 What this paper adds:

  • This paper adds to the existing literature by highlighting the gap between recommended guidelines and the actual implementation of VTE prophylaxis practices in the context of major abdominal surgery.

  • These results provide meaningful clinical relevance about VTE prophylaxis practice for nurses and surgeons involved major abdominal surgery.

  • The continuing education of Australian nurses should include an emphasis on VTE risk assessment and prevention.

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