To assess the potential impact of controlling risk factors on the incidence of venous thromboembolism by estimating the population attributable risk (defined as the percentage of all cases of a disease in a population that can be "attributed" to a risk factor) for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism associated with venous thromboembolism risk factors.
Using data from a population-based, nested, case-control study of the 625 Olmsted County, Minnesota, residents with a definite first lifetime deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism diagnosed during the 15-year period 1976 to 1990 and 625 unaffected Olmsted County residents matched for age and sex, we developed a conditional logistic regression model appropriate to the matched case-control study design and then estimated attributable risk for the risk factors individually and collectively.
Fifty-nine percent of the cases of venous thromboembolism in the community could be attributed to institutionalization (current or recent hospitalization or nursing home residence). Hospitalization for surgery (24%) and for medical illness (22%) accounted for a similar proportion of the cases, while nursing home residence accounted for 13%. The individual attributable risk estimates for malignant neoplasm, trauma, congestive heart failure, central venous catheter or pacemaker placement, neurological disease with extremity paresis, and superficial vein thrombosis were 18%, 12%, 10%, 9%, 7%, and 5%, respectively. Together, the 8 risk factors accounted for 74% of disease occurrence.
Factors associated with institutionalization independently account for more than 50% of all cases of venous thromboembolism in the community. Greater emphasis should be placed on prophylaxis for hospitalized medical patients. Other recognized risk factors account for about 25% of all cases of venous thromboembolism, while the remaining 25% of cases are idiopathic.