Reports From the Field

Reducing Rates of Perioperative Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Emboli in Hip and Knee Arthroplasty Patients: A Quality Improvement Project



From Grant Medical Center (Dr. Fada, Ms. Lucki, and Dr. Polonia) and the OhioHealth Group (Ms. Long and Dr. Gascon), Columbus, OH; and the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN (Dr. Hartwell).


  • Objective: To decrease the rates of venous thromboembolism (VTE) associated with total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and total hip arthroplasty (THA), evaluate the effectiveness of the current practice of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) prophylaxis, and improve patient care and recovery following surgery.
  • Methods: A multidisciplinary team of surgeons, intensivists, cardiologists, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, hospital quality and safety directors, and senior hospital administration was formed to study trends in care, review best practices, identify root causes of suboptimal performance, and implement improvements.
  • Results: DVT/PE rates associated with TKA/THA decreased nearly 60% over 2 years to a rate of 4.8 per 1000 discharges. Enoxaparin dosing has been sustained at 94% of patients, and 88% of patients experience early mobilization.
  • Conclusion: Multidisciplinary teams are capable of effecting sustained improvements in patient care and outcomes when paired with lean management practices and a commitment to quality improvement. Collective efforts towards education, removal of barriers to carry out best practices, and having physicians champion the prevention of DVT/PE led to a clinically significant and sustained improvement in patient outcomes.

Keywords: joint replacement; thrombosis; surgery; patient safety; prophylaxis.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) in the form of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) affects nearly 600,000 Americans annually, and is directly or indirectly responsible for at least 100,000 deaths per year.1 VTE has historically been viewed as a complication of major surgery (ie, abdominal or thoracic operations that require general anesthesia lasting ≥ 30 minutes),2,3 although it can occur outside of such settings. Risk factors for VTE include age, obesity, a history of VTE, cancer, bed rest of 5 or more days, major surgery, congestive heart failure, varicose veins, fracture (hip or leg), estrogen treatment, stroke, multiple trauma, childbirth, and myocardial infarction.4 VTE is a disease with long-term complications that can affect patients for several years, and can lead to an avoidable death.5 VTEs are of particular concern following total joint replacements.

The incidence of joint replacement procedures in the United States is high, with more than 1 million total hip and total knee replacement procedures performed each year. With the aging of the population, higher rates of diagnosis and treatment of advanced arthritis, and growing demand for improved mobility and quality of life, the annual procedure volumes are projected to increase considerably in the future, making joint replacements the most common elective surgical procedures in the coming decades.6 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are introducing new payment models that incorpoarate total cost of care with improved quality outcomes that must take into account complications of major surgical procedures.7 Hospital-acquired perioperative DVT/PE rates are now publicly reported and may affect reimbursement rates from CMS for patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty (THA) or total knee arthroplasty (TKA).



OhioHealth Grant Medical Center (GMC), an American College of Surgeons verified Level 1 trauma center, was established in 1900 in downtown Columbus, Ohio, as the second member hospital of OhioHealth, a not-for-profit, faith-based health care system. The Bone and Joint Center at GMC performs approximately 1000 total joint procedures per year, with an overall orthopedic surgical case volume of approximately 6000 cases per year. In 2013 it was noted that the unadjusted DVT/PE rate of 11.3 per 1000 TKA/THA discharges was higher than the benchmark patient safety indicator of 4.51/1000 surgical patient discharges published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).


In an effort to reduce DVT/PE rates for patients undergoing THA/TKA, a multidisciplinary quality improvement project was initiated. The purpose of this project was (1) to determine care opportunities within the surgical patient population to decrease the overall rates of DVT/PE, and (2) to determine if a multidisciplinary team could impact change. This initiative was led by 2 outcomes managers, a surgical outcomes manager and an orthopedic outcomes manager, due to the service line that these individuals supported. This multidisciplinary team’s goal was to promote increased collaboration among all team members in order to provide higher quality care to our hip and knee patient population and improve patient outcomes.


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