Periprocedural thromboprophylaxis in patients receiving chronic anticoagulation therapy

Syed M Jafri
American Heart Journal 2004, 147 (1): 3-15
Patients receiving chronic anticoagulation therapy pose a clinical challenge when therapy needs to be interrupted for surgical or invasive procedures. Maintaining anticoagulation places them at risk for serious bleeding complications, whereas discontinuing anticoagulation puts them at risk of thromboembolic complications. Most patients can undergo dental procedures, cataract surgery, and diagnostic endoscopy without discontinuing anticoagulation. The main patient groups that may require a periprocedural alternative to oral anticoagulation (periprocedural thromboprophylaxis or bridging) include patients with prosthetic heart valves, atrial fibrillation, and hypercoagulable states and patients with chronic venous thrombosis who are undergoing surgery. Currently, there is little consensus on the appropriate perioperative treatment of patients on long-term warfarin therapy. There are an increasing number of studies that evaluate the benefits of periprocedural bridging with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) in place of unfractionated heparin (UFH). An advantage of LMWH over UFH is that perioperative conversion from warfarin therapy with LMWH can be carried out in the outpatient setting, which is more convenient for patients and is cost effective. As with the use of UFH, there are reports of maternal thromboembolic complications with LMWHs in pregnant women with mechanical heart valves. This review brings together the available data on periprocedural bridging to assess the available options for patients on long-term warfarin therapy who are undergoing surgical procedures. It provides a rationale for using LMWHs while individualizing the risks versus benefits in a given patient population.

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