Reports From the Field

A Multidisciplinary Ambulation Protocol to Reduce Postoperative Venous Thromboembolism After Colorectal Surgery



From the Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.


Background: Patients undergoing colorectal surgery are at high risk for postoperative venous thromboembolism (VTE). Early ambulation has been encouraged to lower rates of VTE, but evidence demonstrating its effectiveness outside of a bundle is limited.

Objective: To create a multidisciplinary ambulation protocol in an effort to reduce postoperative VTE.

Methods: A single-center, retrospective, comparative study of patients who underwent colectomy or proctectomy was conducted. Outcomes of patients operated on prior to protocol implementation were compared with a cohort after implementation. The intervention studied was the implementation of a multidisciplinary ambulation protocol. The primary endpoint was postoperative VTE.

Results: There was no difference between the pre-intervention group (n = 1762) and the postintervention group (n = 253) in terms of sex, race, origin, emergency status, operative time, and the majority of medical comorbidities (with the exception of smoking status and congestive heart failure). After the protocol was implemented, ambulation rates on postoperative days 0, 1, and 2 improved from 36.4%, 47.3%, and 50.2% to 36.8%, 74.7%, and 82.6%, respectively The VTE rate in the pre-intervention group was 2.7% versus a rate of 0.4% in the postintervention group (P = 0.02).

Conclusion: Creation of an ambulation protocol is associated with a significant reduction in VTE. Commitment from patients, families, nurses, physician extenders, and physicians is critical to the success of the program.

Keywords: VTE; pulmonary embolism; deep vein thrombosis; postoperative; quality improvement.


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