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Pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis after surgery

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a condition that occurs when an artery in your lung becomes blocked. In most cases, it's caused by a blood clot that lodges in the lung. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is what happens when a blood clot forms deep in the body. They usually develop in the lower legs. DVT may lead to a PE. When a PE or DVT occurs after a surgery, it may be considered postoperative PE or DVT.

PE and DVT are both serious potential complications of any surgery. Though not all PEs and DVTs are preventable, some of them are. It is our goal to minimize the number of preventable post-operative PEs and DVTs.

At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, we have procedures in place to avoid these complications. The two most important things we do are to prescribe anticoagulant medication (blood thinners) and, when medication is not an option, to have patients wear compression boots. The medication thins the blood, and compression boots squeeze the bottom of the legs to keep the blood flowing. Both of these treatments help prevent clots from forming.

What we are doing to improve

To go one step further toward patient safety and fewer PEs and DVTs, we have set up a team of doctors, nurses and pharmacists to review everything we do to prevent DVT/PE. That team is working to ensure consistent DVT/PE prevention is provided for all medicine and surgery patients. Pharmacists now play an expanded role in checking that patients have the right medications prescribed while they are in the hospital. We have also conducted an educational program for nurses that focused on prevention. We believe our education and team approach will better prevent DVT and PE.

About this measure

This measure tracks the number of cases of DVT or PE that occur after surgery out of every 1000 patients who have a surgical procedure.

The source of data for NMH is Vizient. The source of benchmark data is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In this case, a lower number is better.