Background: When warfarin is interrupted for surgery, low-molecular-weight heparin is often used as bridging therapy. However, this practice has never been evaluated in a large prospective study. This study was designed to assess the efficacy and safety of bridging therapy with low-molecular-weight heparin initiated out of hospital.
Methods and results: This was a prospective, multicenter, single-arm cohort study of patients at high risk of arterial embolism (prosthetic valves and atrial fibrillation with a major risk factor). Warfarin was held for 5 days preoperatively. Low-molecular-weight heparin was given 3 days preoperatively and at least 4 days postoperatively. Patients were followed up for 3 months for thromboembolism and bleeding. Eleven Canadian tertiary care academic centers participated; 224 patients were enrolled. Eight patients (3.6%; 95% CI, 1.8 to 6.9) had an episode of thromboembolism, of which 2 (0.9%; 95% CI, 0.2 to 3.2) were judged to be due to cardioembolism. Of these 8 episodes of thromboembolism, 6 occurred in patients who had warfarin deferred or withdrawn because of bleeding. There were 15 episodes of major bleeding (6.7%; 95% CI, 4.1 to 10.8): 8 occurred intraoperatively or early postoperatively before low-molecular-weight heparin was restarted, 5 occurred in the first postoperative week after low-molecular-weight heparin was restarted, and 2 occurred well after low-molecular-weight heparin was stopped. There were no deaths.
Conclusions: Bridging therapy with subcutaneous low-molecular-weight heparin is feasible; however, the optimal approach for the management of patients who require temporary interruption of warfarin to have invasive procedures is uncertain.