Study leader Dr. Lorraine McFarland of the University of Birmingham said hospital-acquired venous thromboembolism -- a blood clot -- kills more people than breast cancer, road traffic accidents, HIV/AIDS and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a hospital-acquired infection, combined.
Venous thromboembolism includes deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism and risk factors include immobility, acute illness, major and orthopedic surgery, malignancy, pregnancy, increasing age and obesity.
A combination of these factors further increases the risk, McFarland said.
Clinical guidelines and recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in 2007 indicate all patients admitted to hospitals in Britain should undergo a routine venous thromboembolism risk assessment, McFarland.
"Poor public knowledge of venous thromboembolism, which is largely confined to blood-clots associated with air travel, is not surprising when the risk is also underestimated by hospitals, who continue in failing to provide appropriate clot-preventing drugs," McFarland said in a statement. "What is even more surprising is the lack of appreciation of these risks among healthcare professionals."
Venous thromboembolism is largely preventable by compression stockings, and small doses of anti-coagulants could reduce the 32,000 deaths that occur each year from this condition in Britain, McFarland said.