Background: Warfarin is very effective in preventing recurrent venous thromboembolism but is also associated with a substantial risk of bleeding. After three months of conventional warfarin therapy, a lower dose of anticoagulant medication may result in less bleeding and still prevent recurrent venous thromboembolism.
Methods: We conducted a randomized, double-blind study, in which 738 patients who had completed three or more months of warfarin therapy for unprovoked venous thromboembolism were randomly assigned to continue warfarin therapy with a target international normalized ratio (INR) of 2.0 to 3.0 (conventional intensity) or a target INR of 1.5 to 1.9 (low intensity). Patients were followed for an average of 2.4 years.
Results: Of 369 patients assigned to low-intensity therapy, 16 had recurrent venous thromboembolism (1.9 per 100 person-years), as compared with 6 of 369 assigned to conventional-intensity therapy (0.7 per 100 person-years; hazard ratio, 2.8; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 7.0). A major bleeding episode occurred in nine patients assigned to low-intensity therapy (1.1 events per 100 person-years) and eight patients assigned to conventional-intensity therapy (0.9 event per 100 person-years; hazard ratio, 1.2; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.4 to 3.0). There was no significant difference in the frequency of overall bleeding between the two groups (hazard ratio, 1.3; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.8 to 2.1).
Conclusions: Conventional-intensity warfarin therapy is more effective than low-intensity warfarin therapy for the long-term prevention of recurrent venous thromboembolism. The low-intensity warfarin regimen does not reduce the risk of clinically important bleeding.
Copyright 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society