DVT Debunked: Why DVT prevention is important to clinical staff

The Smart Compression™ Educates DVT Debunked series introduces several common misconceptions – or myths – about blood clot prevention and provides resources and evidence to clarify and educate.

Patricia Chaney

Essential Insights contributor, healthcare writer


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prevention is not a priority for clinical staff.


Venous thromboembolism (VTE), which includes DVT and pulmonary embolism (PE), is the leading cause of preventable death in hospitalized patients. Many cases occur in outpatient settings but are related to recent surgery or hospitalization. Clinical staff may not always see the effects, yet prevention begins in the hospital. Clinical staff are vital at preventing VTE in the hospital and educating patients on at-home prevention.

Nurses, providers and caregivers on the front lines feel the strain of numerous competing priorities, and many are fighting burnout from the pandemic. But, with a few steps, you can prioritize VTE prevention and aim to make it a rare event.

Why it matters

Julia Shelton, DNP, APRN, CNS, shared a story from her hospital, where a new mom was found dead during hourly rounding after having a scheduled C-section. “We did find out eventually she did have a PE,” Shelton said. “We are so close to the patients we serve. … it has heightened our awareness that PEs do happen. We do have the opportunity to prevent them.”

In the United States, about 540,000 hospitalized patients develop a VTE every year. Up to 70% of hospital-associated VTE cases can be prevented with appropriate interventions.

It’s important to begin prevention in the hospital, because DVT and PE can lead to long-term complications for patients. Patients who develop DVT are more likely to develop blood clots again later in life. Some may develop post-thrombotic syndrome, which affects their quality of life.

Signs and symptoms

DVT is a blood clot that occurs in one of the deep veins in the body, most often in the legs. If the blood clot in a vein breaks loose, it can travel through the bloodstream and lodge in an artery in the lungs. This blocks the blood flow to the lung and leads to a PE.

DVT often has few symptoms, which means clinical staff need to be proactive with prevention. For about 25% of people with PE, the first symptom is sudden death.

For about 25%

of people with PE, the first symptom is sudden death1.

Other symptoms of DVT include2:

Importance of prevention and treatment

Role of clinical staff