Long-term outcome after anticoagulation-associated intracerebral haemorrhage with or without restarting antithrombotic therapy

Celine S Gathier, Ale Algra, Gabriël J E Rinkel, H Bart van der Worp
Cerebrovascular Diseases 2013, 36 (1): 33-7

BACKGROUND: For patients who survive intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH) during treatment with oral anticoagulation (OAC), the balance between the benefits and risks of restarting OAC is unclear. The decision to restart OAC or to start antiplatelet therapy in these patients therefore poses a dilemma for all physicians involved. We assessed the long-term outcome of patients who did or did not restart antithrombotic therapy after OAC-associated ICH.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective follow-up study of all patients discharged from our institution after OAC-associated ICH over a 10-year period. Data on the use of OAC or platelet inhibitors and the occurrence of vascular events during follow-up were assessed through questionnaires and patient files. The primary outcome was recurrent fatal or non-fatal stroke. Secondary outcomes were the occurrence of other haemorrhagic, thrombotic or thromboembolic events. With patients without antithrombotic treatment as reference, we calculated incidence ratios with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) for treatment with OAC and for treatment with antiplatelet therapy.

RESULTS: We included 38 patients, of whom 21 (55%) died during a mean follow-up of 3.5 years. The medication regime changed frequently during follow-up, illustrated by the fact that two thirds of the patients who had resumed OAC within 2 months of ICH terminated this at later points in time. Two recurrent strokes occurred during 35.4 patient-years without antithrombotic medication, 7 during 63.8 patient-years on antiplatelet medication (incidence ratio 1.9; 95% CI, 0.4-9.4), and 3 during 19.5 patient-years on OAC (incidence ratio 2.7; 95% CI, 0.5-16.3). There was only 1 recurrent ICH, which occurred during treatment with OAC.

CONCLUSION: In this observational study, no significant difference in the primary outcome measure was found between the treatment groups, but there was a tendency towards a higher long-term risk of any stroke in patients who resumed OAC or started antiplatelet therapy. However, based on these results it is difficult to draw any concrete conclusions or make any strong recommendations. A randomized trial to assess the optimal long-term strategy after OAC-related ICH is warranted. Based on the point estimates of our study, such a trial should involve at least 300 patient-years of follow-up.

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