Risks and benefits of combining aspirin with anticoagulant therapy in patients with atrial fibrillation: an exploratory analysis of stroke prevention using an oral thrombin inhibitor in atrial fibrillation (SPORTIF) trials

Am Heart J. 2006 Nov;152(5):967-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2006.06.024.


Background: Aspirin is used in combination with anticoagulant therapy in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), but evidence of additional efficacy is not available.

Methods: We compared ischemic events and bleeding in the SPORTIF III and IV randomized trials of anticoagulation with warfarin (international normalized ratio 2-3) or fixed-dose ximelagatran. Low-dose aspirin (<100 mg/d) was allowed based on prevailing guidelines.

Results: The 14% of patients receiving aspirin more often had diabetes (27.5% vs 23%, P < .01), coronary artery disease (69% vs 41%, P < .01), previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (26% vs 20%, P < .01), and left ventricular dysfunction (41% vs 36%, P < .01). Addition of aspirin to either warfarin or ximelagatran was associated with no reduction in stroke or systemic embolism. Major bleeding occurred significantly more often with aspirin plus warfarin (3.9% per year) than with warfarin alone (2.3% per year, P < .01), aspirin plus ximelagatran (2.0% per year), or ximelagatran alone (1.9% per year). The rate of myocardial infarction with aspirin and warfarin (0.6% per year) was not significantly different from that with ximelagatran alone (1.0% per year), warfarin alone (1.0% per year), or aspirin and ximelagatran (1.4% per year).

Conclusions: Aspirin combined with anticoagulant therapy was associated with no reduction in stroke, systemic embolism, or myocardial infarction in patients with AF. Aspirin combined with warfarin was associated with an incremental rate of major bleeding of 1.6% per year. No increased major bleeding occurred with aspirin and ximelagatran. These results suggest that the risks associated with addition of aspirin to anticoagulation in patients with AF outweigh the benefit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Aspirin / adverse effects
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Azetidines / adverse effects
  • Azetidines / therapeutic use
  • Benzylamines / adverse effects
  • Benzylamines / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Embolism / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control
  • Myocardial Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Warfarin / adverse effects
  • Warfarin / therapeutic use


  • Anticoagulants
  • Azetidines
  • Benzylamines
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • ximelagatran
  • Warfarin
  • Aspirin