Aims: The role of aspirin in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) is well established, yet patients happen to discontinue aspirin according to physician's advice or unsupervised. We thus undertook a systematic review to appraise the hazards inherent to aspirin withdrawal or non-compliance in subjects at risk for or with CAD.
Methods and results: Electronic databases were systematically searched (updated January 2006). Study designs, patient characteristics, and outcomes were abstracted. Pooled estimates for odds ratios (OR) were computed according to random-effect methods. From the 612 screened studies, six were selected (50,279 patients). One study (31,750 patients) focused on adherence to aspirin therapy in the secondary prevention of CAD, two studies (2594) on aspirin discontinuation in acute CAD, two studies (13,706) on adherence to aspirin therapy before or shortly after coronary artery bypass grafting, and another (2229) on aspirin discontinuation among patients undergoing drug-eluting stenting. Overall, aspirin non-adherence/withdrawal was associated with three-fold higher risk of major adverse cardiac events (OR=3.14 [1.75-5.61], P=0.0001). This risk was magnified in patients with intracoronary stents, as discontinuation of antiplatelet treatment was associated with an even higher risk of adverse events (OR=89.78 [29.90-269.60]).
Conclusion: Non-compliance or withdrawal of aspirin treatment has ominous prognostic implication in subjects with or at moderate-to-high risk for CAD. Aspirin discontinuation in such patients should be advocated only when bleeding risk clearly overwhelms that of atherothrombotic events.