Managing anticoagulated patients during neuraxial anaesthesia

Br J Haematol. 2010 Apr;149(2):195-208. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2010.08094.x. Epub 2010 Feb 8.


The widespread use of central neuraxial block (CNB) and the prevalence of anticoagulation for different indications have led to an inevitable overlap between the two. The most serious complication of CNB in anticoagulated patients is the risk of spinal/epidural haematoma. Performing CNB in these patients is a complex decision that should take into account the twin risks of bleeding and venous/arterial thrombosis if anticoagulation therapies were to be stopped. Various guidelines have been issued to achieve normal haemostasis and thus allow safe administration of CNB. However, the evidence base for many such recommendations is weak, relying mainly on case reports, small studies and pharmacokinetics of the drugs. Given these limitations it is crucial to fully assess individual risk factors and understand anticoagulant pharmacokinetics in order to appropriately set time intervals for catheter insertion/removal. This paper will review traditional and newer anticoagulation/antiplatelet therapies with a view to improving the management of anticoagulated patients undergoing CNB.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural / adverse effects*
  • Anesthesia, Spinal / adverse effects*
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects*
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Spinal / etiology
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Spinal / therapy
  • Hemostasis, Surgical / methods
  • Heparin / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Thromboembolism / etiology


  • Anticoagulants
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Heparin