Background: A lot of clinicians use heparin in patients with posterior circulation stroke. Frequency and risk factors of symptomatic intracerebral hematoma (ICH) in posterior circulation infarct patients anticoagulated with unfractionated heparin are not known.
Methods: To determine the incidence and the risk factors of the heparin-related ICH in posterior circulation infarct patients, we retrospectively reviewed the clinical features of 37 patients who had acute posterior circulation infarct and received intravenous heparin after they underwent brain computed tomographic scans and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). Follow-up brain scans were obtained at any time if clinical symptoms worsened. Volumes of acute posterior circulation infarction were calculated on DWI.
Results: Of 37 patients, four (10.8%) developed symptomatic ICH during heparin infusion. The location of ICH was cerebellum in all the hemorrhagic worsening patients. We found that the size of an acute infarction calculated on DWI is the risk factor of symptomatic ICH during intravenous heparin therapy in patients with posterior circulation infarct.
Conclusions: Until a large prospective study is performed, it may be prudent to avoid heparin infusion in patients with large posterior circulation infarct documented on DWI.