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Clopidogrel is not associated with major bleeding complications during peripheral arterial surgery.

OBJECTIVES: Persistent variation in practice surrounds preoperative clopidogrel management at the time of vascular surgery. While some surgeons preferentially discontinue clopidogrel citing a perceived risk of perioperative bleeding, others will proceed with surgery in patients taking clopidogrel for an appropriate indication. The purpose of this study was to determine whether preoperative clopidogrel use was associated with significant bleeding complications during peripheral arterial surgery.

METHODS: We reviewed a prospective regional vascular surgery registry recorded by 66 surgeons from 15 centers in New England from 2003 to 2009. Preoperative clopidogrel use within 48 hours of surgery was analyzed among patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy (CEA), lower extremity bypass (LEB), endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm repair (EVAR), and open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair (oAAA). Ruptured AAAs were excluded. Endpoints included postoperative bleeding requiring reoperation, as well as the incidence and volume of blood transfusion. Statistical analysis was performed using analysis of variance, Fisher exact, χ(2), and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests.

RESULTS: Over the study interval, a total of 10,406 patients underwent surgery, including 5264 CEA, 2883 LEB, 1125 EVAR, and 1134 oAAA repair. Antiplatelet use among all patients varied, with 19% (n = 2010) taking no antiplatelet agents, 69% (n = 7132) taking aspirin (ASA) alone, 2.2% (n = 229) taking clopidogrel alone, and 9.7% (n = 1017) taking both ASA and clopidogrel. Clopidogrel alone or as dual antiplatelet therapy was most frequently used prior to CEA and least frequently prior to oAAA group (CEA 16.1%, LEB 9.0%, EVAR 6.5%, oAAA 5%). Reoperation for bleeding was not significantly different among patients based on antiplatelet regimen (none 1.5%, ASA 1.3%, clopidogrel 0.9%, ASA/clopidogrel 1.5%, P = .74). When analyzed by operation type, no difference in reoperation for bleeding was seen across antiplatelet regimens. There was also no difference in the incidence of transfusion among antiplatelet treatment groups (none 18%, ASA 17%, clopidogrel 0%, ASA/clopidogrel 24%, P = .1) and none when analyzed by individual operation type. Among patients who did require transfusion, there was no significant difference in the mean number of units of packed red blood cells required (none 0.7 units, ASA 0.5 units, clopidogrel 0 units, ASA/clopidogrel 0.6 units, P = .1) or when stratified by operation type.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients undergoing peripheral arterial surgery in whom clopidogrel was continued either alone or as part of dual antiplatelet therapy did not have significant bleeding complications compared with patients taking no antiplatelet therapy or ASA alone at the time of surgery. These data suggest that clopidogrel can safely be continued preoperatively in patients with appropriate indications for its use, such as symptomatic carotid disease or recent drug-eluting coronary stents.

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