Clot and Stroke Risk Awareness High Among At-Risk Patients, But Information Gaps Remain

Results of a major awareness survey conducted by the National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) about blood clots risks and blood clot prevention are being shared this month in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Public Health Association and the American Heart Association.
One of the largest surveys of its kind, NBCA’s Awareness Survey involved 2,250 participants, including 500 members of the general public, 1,250 patients at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, and 500 patients with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, at risk for blood clots that can cause stroke.

Key findings of this survey show that nearly 80% of the general public is not aware of the life-threatening blood clot risk, or medical condition, called deep vein thrombosis.  Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot in a vein in the leg.  Leg clots can travel to a person’s lungs and cause pulmonary embolism, or PE, which can lead to death.  More than 80% of the general public surveyed said they are not familiar with the term pulmonary embolism.
Other important findings presented by NBCA at the recent annual meeting of the American Public Health Association show that patients enrolled in this survey and affected by medical conditions that put them at increased risk for DVT/PE – including people who had been hospitalized for three or more days (n=500)people with cancer (n=500), and people who had undergone hip and/or knee replacement surgery (n=250) – did not demonstrate any significantly greater awareness about DVT/PE than the general public:  Less than 30% of respondents in each patient group were actually familiar with the term deep vein thrombosis, and less than 20% were familiar with the term pulmonary embolism.  These findings also showed that evidence-based prevention practices for DVT/PE were suboptimal among all patient groups surveyed.

“We conducted this survey to measure gaps in awareness and risk prevention practices in both the general public and select groups of patients who are at increased risk for blood clots,” explains NBCA Chief Executive Officer Alan P. Brownstein, MPH.  “The results of this survey clearly demonstrate the tremendous need for education to improve awareness among the public and at-risk patient groups about blood clot risks and blood clot prevention.”
DVT and PE impose a major public health burden in the U.S., affecting up to 600,000 individuals and accounting for an estimated 100,000 deaths each year, according to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent DVT and PE.  This call to action also explains:  People hospitalized for acute medical illness have a 10-fold increased risk for DVT/PE.  Mortality is greater among cancer patients with DVT/PE than among those with cancer alone.  DVT and subsequent PE remain the most common cause for emergency re-admission and death following joint replacement.

American Heart Association Annual Meeting:  Blood Clots and Stroke

NBCA’s awareness survey also measured blood clot awareness and clot prevention practices among 500 people with atrial fibrillation, or AF.  NBCA will be sharing the results of these AF survey findings at the 2011 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association, Orlando, FL, November 12-16.

The irregular heartbeat associated with AF disrupts blood flow through the heart and can cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke to form.  AF patients have a five-fold increased risk for ischemic stroke due to blood clot formation.

The data being shared at AHA show that the majority of AF patients surveyed (91%) know what a blood clot is, and virtually all of these respondents (99%) recognize blood clots as life threatening.   However, more than 1/4 of the AF patients surveyed (27%) said they were not told by their doctor or other healthcare professional that they were at risk for blood clots and stroke due to AF.  More than 1/4 of respondents (27%) also reported that they had not been told how blood clots can be prevented.   Among all patients surveyed, 60% said they were not given additional information or referred to other information sources about blood clots and stroke.

With regard to blood clot prevention associated with the risk of stroke in AF patients, the survey showed that aspirin use was reported by 333 AF patients as the most widely used (67%) treatment for the prevention of blood clots.  Just more than half (52%) or 259 respondents said they were given warfarin therapy.  Just 12% or 59 patients surveyed said they were given low molecular weight heparin.

“Despite generally good awareness levels among AF patients about blood clots, information gaps do remain and opportunities exist for improved patient education,” says Brownstein.  “Further, among AF patients interventions are needed to fill awareness gaps about blood clot formation and stroke risk.  “AF patients should be educated to understand the role of different anticoagulation options, and we need to conduct further research into new anticoagulation therapies to reduce or minimize such treatment barriers.”

Survey Methodology

The objective of this survey, conducted by the national survey firm USA/Direct, Inc., was to assess the hypothesis that there are gaps in blood clot risk awareness, information, and evidence-based clot prevention practices among the general public and at-risk patients.  Survey questions were developed by NBCA’s Medical & Scientific Advisory Board, in collaboration with additional medical experts from the fields of hospital medicine, orthopedics, oncology, and cardiology.  The survey, conducted via online or Internet panels, involved:  a nationally representative cross-section of 500 adults, 20 years of age or older, 250 patients who had a total or partial hip or knee replacement surgery in the prior 12 months, 500 patients with a cancer diagnosis, or on active cancer treatment in the prior 12 months, and 500 patients who had been hospitalized for three or more days in the prior 12 month, and 500 patients diagnosed with AF.  All patient samples were developed from self-reported ailment data, residing in selected online sample panel databases, verified and supplemented via the current study multi-ailment screener.

For more information, or to order free copies of the NBCA Awareness Survey, contact NBCA at www.stoptheclot.org, or 877.4No.Clot (877-466-2568).

NBCA is a patient-led advocacy organization dedicated to promoting patient and public awareness about the risks, signs/symptoms and prevention of DVT/PE and blood clots.

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