PULMONARY embolism is a ubiquitous and frequently lethal complication (50,000 deaths annually1 of a broad spectrum of medical and surgical diseases and of sedentary living). This mortality is predominantly a hospital-based phenomenon. The hazard to a productive life has been masked by a lack of awareness of the true incidence of pulmonary embolism and by the fact that it is not itself a disease, but rather a complication of a host of major pathologic states. Recent data have documented not only its remarkable scope, its increasing prevalence in our society, but, most importantly, have provided new methods of prophylaxis that are available for general use by physicians and surgeons. In short, venous thromboembolism is on its way to becoming a largely preventable complication of disease.
Anticoagulants, particularly heparin sodium in classical doses and the coumarin compounds, are the mainstay of the antithrombotic methods in the prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism.
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