Nearly half of all venous thromboembolism (VTE) events occur during or soon after hospitalizations.1 And who are the frontline providers diagnosing and managing VTE in the inpatient setting?
“While VTE may not be the No. 1 reason for hospitalization, hospitalists very frequently care for patients with VTE,” says Sowmya Kanikkannan, MD, FACP, SFHM, hospitalist medical director and assistant professor of medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, N.J. “Hospitalists usually are the frontline providers that diagnose and manage hospital-acquired VTEs in hospitalized patients.”
Dr. Kanikkannan, a member of Team Hospitalist, sees a wide range of VTE cases caused by two related conditions—deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).
“Some patients present with a straightforward diagnosis of DVT, while others have extensive DVT,” she says. “In other instances, patients present with acute PE with or without hemodynamic compromise. I’ve also diagnosed and managed hospital-acquired VTEs in medical patients, as well as post-operatively in surgical co-management.”
It is estimated that between 350,000 to 900,000 Americans are affected by DVT or PE each year, with up to 100,000 dying as a result. Twenty to 50% of people who experience DVT develop long-term complications.1VTE costs the U.S. healthcare system more than $1.5 billion annually.2
As lieutenants in the war against VTE, hospitalists are finding that new treatments, continued efforts to standardize VTE prophylaxis, and increased transparency in performance reporting are the tools needed to combat these common conditions—and hospitalists are being held accountable for optimal patient care.
New Treatments Show Promise
Diagnosing and treating VTE early helps to prevent progression and hemodynamic instability. Although the accepted treatment for VTE used to be heparin, or a low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) (Fragmin, Innohep and Lovenox) with a transition to warfarin, three target-specific oral anticoagulants (TSOACs)—dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and apixaban—are now being prescribed. The FDA has approved rivaroxaban and apixaban for the prevention of VTE after knee and hip surgery and for treatment of VTE, while dabigatran is FDA approved only for the treatment of VTE. All three are approved for use in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (Afib). A fourth TSOAC, edoxaban, received FDA approval in January for VTE treatment and nonvalvular atrial fibrillation.
“The drawback of warfarin is that patients need frequent international normalized ratio (INR) monitoring,” Dr. Kanikkannan says. “Discharge planning is time consuming because patients need to be educated on warfarin, and follow-up appointments need to be arranged before discharge to ensure patient safety.”
“Their [TSOACs] ease of administration and easy dosing helps hospitalists to manage patients with VTE more efficiently,” Dr. Kanikkannan says. “Patients like having lab testing less frequently but equal efficacy in treatment.”
Rivaroxaban used to have the most approved indications by the FDA; however, based on three clinical trials—ADVANCE-1, 2, and 3—apixaban has the same six FDA indications as rivaroxaban.
The majority of clinical trials suggest noninferiority or superiority of the oral agents compared to LMWH, and safety appears to be similar across treatment groups, other than an increased risk in bleeding with oral agents (see Table 1).
“The increased risk of bleeding seen in trials is something hospitalists need to consider,” says Yong Lee, PharmD, BCPS, clinical pharmacy specialist at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, Texas. Warfarin is easily reversed; the new anticoagulants don’t have any specific reversal agent (see new table about reversal options). Consequently, the American College of Chest Physicians still recommends unfractionated heparin or a LMWH for VTE prophylaxis. “These agents will still likely remain the best available options to hospitalists for VTE prevention,” he adds.