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Perioperative management of antithrombotic therapy: a case-based narrative review


The periprocedural management of patients who are receiving vitamin K antagonists, direct oral anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy is a common and challenging clinical scenario as the decision to interrupt or continue these medications is anchored on patient and procedure-related risks for bleeding and thrombosis. Adding to the complexity of clinical management is the fact that anticoagulants have varied pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties and indications for clinical use. In many minimal-bleed-risk procedures, anticoagulants can be safely continued, without interruption, whereas in cases where anticoagulants cannot be safely continued, the timing of interruption and resumption, as well as the need for heparin bridging requires consideration. Perioperative antithrombotic management scenarios occur most often in patients with atrial fibrillation, mechanical heart valves, coronary stents, and cerebrovascular disease as such patients are likely to be prescribed anticoagulant and/or antiplatelet therapy. The objective of this case-based narrative review is to provide a practical evidence-based approach to the perioperative management of patients on anticoagulation and antiplatelet therapy. Four clinical scenarios will be provided: (1) managing patients in whom anticoagulants can be continued; (2) perioperative management of direct oral anticoagulants; (3) management of patients on dual antiplatelet therapy; and (4) anticoagulant management for emergency or urgent surgery.

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Correspondence to James Demetrios Douketis.

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Chen, A.T., Patel, M. & Douketis, J.D. Perioperative management of antithrombotic therapy: a case-based narrative review. Intern Emerg Med (2021).

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  • Anticoagulation
  • Perioperative management
  • Warfarin
  • Vitamin K antagonist
  • Direct oral anticoagulant
  • Heparin bridging