Implementation of clinical practice guidelines for prevention of thromboembolism in spinal cord injury

Stephen P. Burns*, Audrey L. Nelson, Helen T. Bosshart, Lance L. Goetz, Jeffrey J. Harrow, Kevin D. Gerhart, Harriet Bowers, Barbara Krasnicka, Marylou Guihan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background/Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine whether publication of the "Prevention of Thromboembolism in Spinal Cord Injury" clinical practice guideline (CPG) changed patient management and whether adherence to CPG recommendations improved after a targeted implementation strategy. Methods: Data were abstracted from medical records of 134 and 520 patients with acute and chronic spinal cord injury (SCI), respectively, from 6 Veterans Affairs medical centers over 3 time periods: prepublication (T1), preimplementation (T2), and postimplementation (T3) of the CPG. Targeted interventions were developed to address provider-perceived barriers to guideline adherence, based on findings from focus groups conducted at each site. The interventions incorporated two implementation strategies: standardized documentation templates/standing orders and social marketing/outreach visits. Results: Use of the specified duration for pharmacologic prophylaxis increased from 60% to 65% to 75% of patients with acute SCI in T1, T2, and T3, respectively (P = 0.060 and 0.041 for T1 vs T2 and T2 vs T3, respectively). Rates of use for individual pharmacologic prophylaxis agents changed significantly over the course of the study, with use of low-molecular-weight heparin increasing from 7% in T1 to 42% in T3. Physical assessments for thrombosis on hospitalization days 1 and 30 improved between T2 and T3. Use of prophylaxis in chronically injured patients with new risk factors for thromboembolism increased from 16% to 31% to 34% during T1, T2, and T3 (P = 0.001 and 0.87, respectively). Conclusions: The CPG publication had only a modest effect on practice. Use of structured implementation further increased the adherence to some CPG recommendations for thromboembolism prophylaxis. Similar implementation strategies should be considered for CPG recommendations with low adherence and high potential for morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005


  • Anticoagulants
  • Low-molecular-weight heparin
  • Patient education
  • Practice guidelines
  • Prophylaxis
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Thromboembolism
  • Venous thrombosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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