Background: Vitamin K antagonist treatment is effective for prevention and treatment of thromboembolic events but frequent laboratory control and dose-adjustment are essential. Small portable devices have enabled patient self-monitoring of anticoagulation and self-adjustment of the dose. We compared this self-management of oral anticoagulant therapy with conventional management by a specialist anticoagulation clinic in a randomised cross-over study.
Methods: 50 patients on long-term oral anticoagulant treatment were included in a randomised controlled crossover study. Patients were self-managed or were managed by the anticoagulation clinic for a period of 3 months. After this period the alternative strategy was followed for each patient. Prothrombin time (expressed as international normalised ratio [INR]) were measured at intervals of 1-2 weeks in both periods without knowledge of type of management. The primary endpoint was the number of measurements within the therapeutic range (therapeutic target value +/-50.5 INR units).
Findings: There was no significant difference in the overall quality of control of anticoagulation between the two study periods. Patients were for 55% and for 49% of the treatment period within a range of +/-0.5 from the therapeutic target INR during self-management and anticoagulation clinic management, respectively (p=0.06). The proportion of patients who spent most time in the therapeutic target range was larger during self-management than during anticoagulation clinic-guided management. The odds ratio for a better control of anticoagulation (defined as the period of time in the therapeutic target range) during self-management compared with anticoagulation clinic-guided management was 4.6 (95% CI 2.1-10.2). A patient-satisfaction assessment showed superiority of self-management over conventional care.
Interpretation: Self-management of INR in the population in this study is feasible and appears to result in control of anticoagulation that is at least equivalent to management by a specialist anticoagulation clinic. It is also better appreciated by patients. Larger studies are required to assess the effect of this novel management strategy on the incidence of thromboembolic or bleeding complications.