JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Ximelagatran for the prevention of venous thromboembolism following elective hip or knee replacement surgery

Clifford Colwell, Patrick Mouret
Seminars in Vascular Medicine 2005, 5 (3): 266-75
16123914
Patients undergoing major lower-extremity orthopedic surgery such as total hip replacement (THR) and total knee replacement (TKR) are at an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE). Routine prophylaxis is necessary to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which may progress to potentially fatal pulmonary embolism and secondary complications such as postthrombotic syndrome, recurrent DVT, and chronic pulmonary hypertension. Prophylaxis in patients undergoing TKR, THR, and hip fracture surgery is now standard practice and generally involves anticoagulant treatment with either low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) or warfarin for a period of 7 to 10 days, with extended prophylaxis in those with ongoing risk factors such as obesity, cancer, or previous VTE. Data from clinical practice suggest that there is a general trend toward longer postsurgical prophylaxis and shorter hospital stays, making practicality of treatment an important consideration. LMWH is effective for the prophylaxis of VTE, but the parenteral route of administration is not convenient for use in the outpatient setting. Warfarin, on the other hand, can be administered orally but requires the infrastructure for careful patient monitoring and dose adjustments because of its unpredictable dose-response relationship. The development of new anticoagulants has been pursued with the aim of improving efficacy, predictability, consistency of response, safety, and convenience. A recently approved anticoagulant, fondaparinux, has been proven to provide superior efficacy for the prevention of VTE compared with LMWH, but this agent requires parenteral administration and does not overcome the convenience issue. Ximelagatran is the oral form of the direct thrombin inhibitor melagatran, which is available for subcutaneous administration. Ximelagatran has a consistent anticoagulant response allowing fixed oral dosing without the need for coagulation monitoring. The efficacy and safety profile of melagatran/ximelagatran prophylaxis for VTE following THR and TKR has compared favorably with standard LMWH prophylaxis, as seen in the European METHRO II and III trials and EXPRESS trial, and with warfarin prophylaxis, as seen in the North American EXULT A and B trials. Several prophylactic treatment regimens have been evaluated in the European trials to determine the optimal dosing and timing of first dose of melagatran to achieve the best balance of efficacy and safety. Preoperative initiation of melagatran was more effective than when prophylactic treatment was initiated postoperatively, and the lowest rates of bleeding were associated with a postoperative initiation of prophylaxis. Early administration of the first postoperative melagatran dose (4 to 8 hours) was also associated with better prophylactic efficacy relative to a later postoperative start (8 to 12 hours). The results of the comprehensive international clinical trial program and in particular the optimal balance of efficacy/safety data provided by the METHRO III study have led to approval of melagatran/ximelagatran in 2004 in the European Union for the prevention of VTE in patients undergoing elective hip or knee replacement surgery. Ximelagatran has the potential to maximize the use of anticoagulation in patients discharged following major lower-extremity orthopedic surgery.

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