ASH releases new VTE guidelines


The American Society of Hematology has released a new set of guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of venous thromboembolism.

Dr. Adam C. Cuker, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Dr. Adam C. Cuker

The new guidelines, released on Nov. 27, contain more than 150 individual recommendations, including sections devoted to managing venous thromboembolism (VTE) during pregnancy and in pediatric patients. Guideline highlights cited by some of the writing-panel participants included a high reliance on low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) agents as the preferred treatment for many patients, reliance on the D-dimer test to rule out VTE in patients with a low pretest probability of disease, and reliance on the 4Ts score to identify patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.

The guidelines took more than 3 years to develop, an effort that began in 2015.

An updated set of VTE guidelines were needed because clinicians now have a “greater understanding of risk factors” for VTE as well as having “more options available for treating VTE, including new medications,” Adam C. Cuker, MD, cochair of the guideline-writing group and a hematologist and thrombosis specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said during a webcast to unveil the new guidelines.


For preventing VTE in hospitalized medical patients the guidelines recommended initial assessment of the patient’s risk for both VTE and bleeding. Patients with a high bleeding risk who need VTE prevention should preferentially receive mechanical prophylaxis, either compression stockings or pneumatic sleeves. But in patients with a high VTE risk and an “acceptable” bleeding risk, prophylaxis with an anticoagulant is preferred over mechanical measures, said Mary Cushman, MD, professor and medical director of the thrombosis and hemostasis program at the University of Vermont, Burlington.

Dr. Mary Cushman, professor of medicine and pathology and medical director of the thrombosis and hemostasis program at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Dr. Mary Cushman

For prevention of VTE in medical inpatients, LMWH is preferred over unfractionated heparin because of its once-daily dosing and fewer complications, said Dr. Cushman, a member of the writing group. The panel also endorsed LMWH over a direct-acting oral anticoagulant, both during hospitalization and following discharge. The guidelines for prevention in medical patients explicitly “recommended against” using a direct-acting oral anticoagulant “over other treatments” both for hospitalized medical patients and after discharge, and the guidelines further recommend against extended prophylaxis after discharge with any other anticoagulant.

Another important takeaway from the prevention section was a statement that combining both mechanical and medical prophylaxis was not needed for medical inpatients. And once patients are discharged, if they take a long air trip they have no need for compression stockings or aspirin if their risk for thrombosis is not elevated. People with a “substantially increased” thrombosis risk “may benefit” from compression stockings or treatment with LMWH, Dr. Cushman said.


For diagnosis, Wendy Lim, MD, highlighted the need for first categorizing patients as having a low or high probability for VTE, a judgment that can aid the accuracy of the diagnosis and helps avoid unnecessary testing.


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