Objective: To determine the use of the 3 major classes of antiplatelet drugs (aspirin, thienopyridines, and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors), their management in the perioperative period, and the risks associated with premature withdrawal.
Data sources: We reviewed the PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases using the terms antiplatelet agents in the perioperative period, antiplatelet agents and management of bleeding, drug-eluting stents and stent thrombosis, substitutes for antiplatelet agents, and premature withdrawal of antiplatelet agents.
Study selection: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials; prospective observational studies; review articles; clinical registry data; and guidelines of professional bodies pertaining to antiplatelet agents were included.
Data extraction and synthesis: Two researchers independently read the selected abstracts and selected the studies that matched the inclusion criteria. Any discordance between the 2 researchers was resolved by discussion so that 99 articles were finally included.
Conclusions: Aspirin use should not be stopped in the perioperative period unless the risk of bleeding exceeds the thrombotic risk from withholding the drug. With the exception of recent drug-eluting stent implantation, clopidogrel bisulfate use should be stopped at least 5 days prior to most elective surgery. Use of glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors must be discontinued preoperatively for more than 12 hours to allow normal hemostasis. Premature withdrawal of antiplatelet agents is associated with a 10% risk of all vascular events. Following drug-eluting stent implantation, withdrawal is associated with stent thrombosis and potentially fatal consequences. No definitive guidelines exist to manage patients who are actively bleeding while taking these drugs.