Aspirin is an inexpensive, readily available medication that reduces the risk of subsequent vascular disease by about 25% in patients with known occlusive vascular disease. Aspirin's beneficial effect is mediated via inhibition of arachidonic acid (AA) activation of platelets and is detected by demonstrating a decrease in platelet function and/or a decrease in prostaglandin metabolites. Patients who are assumed to be taking their aspirin, but who do not demonstrate an aspirin effect are labeled as, "aspirin resistant." This is an unfortunate designation as the vast majority of patients labeled as "aspirin resistant" are noncompliant. Noncompliance is demonstrated in multiple studies that use repeat testing for platelet inhibition in patients with an initial inadequate response to aspirin. When the test is repeated under condition where ingestion of the test aspirin is assured, the patients' platelets are inhibited. Instead of using the term "aspirin resistance," this review will use "inadequate response to aspirin." Patients with an inadequate aspirin response have an increased likelihood for subsequent vascular events. Detection and treatment of an inadequate aspirin response would be facilitated by the development of a bedside assay that uses whole blood, is technically simple, inexpensive, sensitive, specific, reproducible, and provides an answer in a few minutes. Future research in patients with an inadequate response to aspirin should focus on mechanisms to improve compliance, which should decrease their risk of future vascular events.
Keywords: aspirin; intracranial arteriosclerosis; platelets.