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Controversies in perioperative management of blood thinners in dermatologic surgery: continue or discontinue?

BACKGROUND: The use of blood thinners has increased dramatically in recent years among the general, and especially among the elderly, population. When these patients need to undergo cutaneous surgery, the surgeon encounters the obvious problem of whether to stop these medications before surgery.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to evaluate the risks and benefits associated with the continuation of blood thinners perioperatively in cutaneous and Mohs micrographic surgery.

METHODS: The study comprises two parts: a search of the literature in English that examined articles that related to the perioperative use of blood thinners in dermatologic surgery and a presentation of data of continuous warfarin therapy in patients who underwent Mohs surgery in our practice.

RESULTS: A total of 15 articles were published in the literature until October 2003. One article showed an increase in complications in patients treated with warfarin, but not with aspirin. All other articles showed no increase in complications during the perioperative period. Data from our practice showed that of a total of 2790 patients, 68 were operated on while taking warfarin (2.4%). Intraoperative bleeding was easily controlled and postoperative bleeding was not recorded in any of the patients.

CONCLUSION: Continuous treatment with blood thinners perioperatively in patients undergoing Mohs and cutaneous surgery is not associated with an increase in surgical complications. Discontinuation of these medications may increase the risk of cerebral and cardiovascular complications.

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