Heart Health

10 June 2010

Warfarin Safe During Heart Device Surgery: Study

Continuing to give the drug may even be beneficial, researchers say

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WEDNESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- It's safe to continue giving the blood thinner warfarin to patients undergoing surgery to implant a heart pacemaker or defibrillator, according to a new study.

The research included 459 patients placed on warfarin therapy to reduce their risk of blood clots. Patients who stopped receiving warfarin but received therapy with another blood-thinner, heparin, as a "bridge" while having surgery to implant a cardiac device had more bleeding complications and longer hospital stays than those who continued receiving warfarin during surgery, the U.S. team found.

Patients who stopped receiving warfarin and had no bridging therapy during surgery had a higher risk of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) than those who continued receiving warfarin during surgery. TIAs are often referred to as mini strokes.

The study appears in the June issue of the HeartRhythm Journal.

"Because of concerns about excessive bleeding and potential associated complications, many clinicians temporarily hold warfarin therapy with or without bridging therapy with heparin or [another drug] enoxaparin in patients preparing to undergo device implantation," lead author Dr. Dennis W. Zhu, associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, said in a news release.

"While temporarily holding the use of warfarin with or without bridging therapy is a common and accepted practice in many cases, our study shows that continuing warfarin is in fact more beneficial to these patients from a safety and cost standpoint," Zhu said.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about cardiac devices.


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