Thousands of surgical patients suffer blood clots every year
Wider use of a new blood-thinning drug to stop clots could save thousands of lives a year, says a charity.
Some hip and knee surgery patients are to start being given Pradaxa, which is available as a daily tablet and needs less monitoring than other drugs.
Lifeblood wants more action to cut the 25,000 deaths related to blood clots each year in English hospitals.
It wants all hospitals to improve their risk assessments for blood clots in patients when they are first admitted.
Many patients are at risk from venous thromboembolism, where blood clots form at the site of the surgery and then cause problems when they break up, moving to block blood vessels elsewhere in the body.
Patients known to be at risk will often be given drugs to thin the blood, making clots less likely.
The prevention of blood clots with blood thinners after surgery is not done well in the UK
Dr Beverley Hunt Lifeblood
However, the number of deaths linked to blood clots still accounts for one in 10 of all those in hospitals in the UK.
Some experts believe that only 40% of patients at risk are getting preventative treatment, and only a third of newly admitted patients are assessed for their risk of clots.
England's chief medical officer said in 2007 there was "significant room for improvement" in preventing blood clots.
A report by Sir Liam Donaldson said there was no "systematic" approach to identifying and treating them.
Lifeblood's medical director, Dr Beverley Hunt, said: "The prevention of blood clots with blood thinners after surgery is not done well in the UK.
"The need for and potential impact of a generally well-tolerated oral anticoagulant that does not require monitoring is profound."
The advantage of Pradaxa is that it is available as a daily tablet and does not require the same level of monitoring as drugs such as Warfarin.
A woman with a blood clot explains her story
This means that patients can take it after being discharged from hospital - a time when they are often still at high risk from clots.
At £4.20 a day, the drug costs roughly the same as existing treatments - Warfarin is cheap but has to be taken for a month and heparin injections are a similar price.
Initially, Pradaxa has been licensed only for NHS use in hip and knee surgery patients.
Professor Simon Frostick, from the University of Liverpool, said that the earlier discharge of many patients following operations meant it was vital to have a way to reduce clot risk at home.
"Pradaxa will be an attractive alternative to other regimens currently used to prevent venous thromboembolism in patients undergoing hip and knee replacement surgery."
A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation welcomed the arrival of the new drug.
"A safe and effective anti-clotting medicine which does not require regular monitoring will provide a significant step forward in improving care for patients at high risk of developing a blood clot.
"We look forward to seeing how Pradaxa may benefit patients who have had orthopaedic surgery, and hope that it will prove to be useful for a wider group of patients."
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