Medical Device Daily Washington Editor

WASHINGTON – U.S. senators unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday in an effort to raise awareness concerning deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).

The passage of Senate Resolution 56, co-sponsored by Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), makes March DVT Awareness Month in memory of David Bloom. In 2003, David Bloom, an NBC News correspondent, suffered a fatal and widely publicized pulmonary embolism while in Iraq covering the war.

Bloom's widow, Melanie Bloom, is national spokesperson for the Coalition to Prevent DVT (Washington), a group made up of 35 healthcare organizations sponsoring public education concerning the problem.

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the large veins, usually in the lower limbs, leading to either partially or completely blocked circulation. The condition may result in health complications such as a pulmonary embolism or death if not diagnosed and treated early on.

According to the American Heart Association (Dallas), DVT affects up to two million annually in the U.S. Of those who develop pulmonary embolism, up to 200,000 will die each year, more than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

A recent survey by the American Public Health Association (Washington) showed that such an awareness program may have benefit. The survey said 74% of Americans reported having little or no awareness of the condition.

"This little-known condition hospitalizes up to 600,000 people each year, causing additional healthcare costs of more than $20,000 per person, per case," said Dorgan, chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition. "If we are able to raise awareness, we'll save healthcare costs, but more importantly, we'll save lives."

DVT can be caused by a variety of factors and triggering events, including restricted mobility, major surgery, cancer and certain heart or respiratory diseases.

Preventative treatments include early mobilization, sequential compression devices to prevent blood clotting and anticoagulants and/or blood-thinning drugs, such as low-molecular-weight heparin, unfractionated heparin and warfarin sodium.

"DVT strikes millions unknowingly each year," Specter said. "With this resolution, we hope to raise public awareness for DVT – a serious yet preventable condition – so that others, like David Bloom, will not suffer at its hand."

Different tests and methods are used to diagnose DVT, including Doppler ultrasonography, duplex scanning and venography.

Diabetes hospitalizations: $2.5 billion in costs

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the nation could save nearly $2.5 billion a year by preventing hospitalizations due to severe diabetes complications.

The findings were the result of research conducted by HHS's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Complications and cost from the disease often can be prevented or reduced with good primary care and compliance with the advice from providers, according to the study.

AHRQ's findings showed that reducing hospital admissions for diabetes complications could save the Medicare program $1.3 billion annually and $386 million a year could be saved by Medicaid.

Nearly one-third of patients with diabetes were hospitalized two or more times in 2001 for diabetes or related conditions, and their costs averaged three times higher than those for patients with single hospital stays, $23,100 vs. $8,500.

The risk of hospitalization for cardiovascular disease was two to four times higher in women with diabetes than in those who did not have diabetes, according to the study.

African Americans, other minorities and poor patients, regardless of race or ethnicity, were more likely to be hospitalized multiple times for diabetes complications than non-Hispanic white and higher-income patients, AHRQ said.

"These findings highlight the importance of carefully monitoring people with diabetes who have a prior admission for the disease to prevent repeat hospitalizations, improving the care of diabetic patients who also suffer from cardiovascular disease and enhancing treatment for minorities and low-income patients," said Carolyn Clancy, MD, director of AHRQ.

According to HHS, diabetes affects 18 million Americans, roughly 6% of the population.